November 8, 2021 (MLN): Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Luis Garicano Gabilondo on the conclusion of his visit to Pakistan to discuss the renewal of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences + on Saturday said the European Union (EU) Parliament is very concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation, which puts into question the continuation of the GSP+ status of the country.
In a detailed thread, Gabilondo said “just returned from a fascinating visit to Pakistan. The EU Parliament is very concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation, which puts into question the continuation of the preferred trade status of the country (GSP+).”
Sharing the GSP+ background, he said that Europe has zero trade tariffs for many Pakistani goods in exchange for implementing 27 human rights conventions.
Pakistan exports 31% of all exports to the EU. The status expires in December 2023 and is now up for revision.
He said that the European delegation wanted to ensure that the human rights part of the deal advances. Only with respect to human rights can Pakistan prosper, extremism is defeated and the country attains the level of progress it deserves.
We had three major concerns: minority rights, women’s rights and press freedom.
He said that they were a big priority of Pakistan´s founder. The Constitution of Pakistan says “adequate provision shall be made for the minorities to freely profess and practice their religions and develop their culture.”
However, this is not the reality due to blasphemy laws and civil rights suppression. He noted that blasphemy laws are abused to keep minorities on the defensive-any mistake can result in years in prison after a false accusation of blasphemy. The civil rights of minorities are constantly under attack. The Ahmedi minority, for instance, is de facto excluded from voting and representation, as they must renounce their faith to vote, he added further.
Commenting on women’s rights, he said that “there are huge concerns about forced marriages for young girls, often after forced conversion. Since Islam punishes apostasy with death, once a girl is forced to convert, it is impossible for her to divorce and come back to her home.”
He also highlighted the narrowing of press freedom in the country saying that “a huge concern is press freedom. Journalists disappear frequently; there is a frequent campaign of cyber harassment online.”
Worst of all, he added that there is no progress on these matters. In fact, things are going backward in terms of journalistic freedom. “Our message was clear: Pakistan should not take for granted its privileged trade status. EU has done its part, Pakistan must fulfill its own part.”
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