Conflicts & War

Pakistan under EU scanner over rights situation for preferential trade scheme

Islamabad, May 25 (EFE).- The European Union is closely monitoring Pakistan’s rights situation amid ongoing political turmoil and a crackdown on opposition politicians.

An EU spokesperson told EFE Thursday that the bloc, Pakistan’s largest trading partner, was watching the crisis-ridden country in the context of a preferential trade agreement used as leverage to promote human rights and good governance.

Global rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, have expressed concern about the government’s warning that it would try embattled ex-prime minister Imran Khan’s supporters, who clashed with police and rioted across the country following his arrest earlier this month, under military rules.

Khan said on Wednesday that more than 10,000 of his party workers, including senior leadership and women, have been arrested in the countrywide crackdown on his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party.

He alleged that the authorities had kept his party workers and supporters in cage-like prison cells without proper food and water.

“The EU is continuously monitoring the implementation of 27 international conventions, including the international covenant on civil and political rights (in Pakistan),” EU spokesperson Nabila Massrali told EFE in an emailed response.

Pakistan currently enjoys the Generalized Scheme of Preferences-Plus (GSP+) that enables zero tariffs on two-thirds of imports from specified nations.

The countries granted the status have to constantly uphold 27 international treaties on human rights, labor rights, the environment, and good governance.

The EU can suspend the GSP+ status if the country doesn’t comply with the human rights conditions.

Import tariff advantages are offered to help vulnerable developing nations eradicate poverty, promote sustainable development, and engage in the global economy.

Pakistan’s GSP+ status will expire in December 2023.

In 2021, the European Parliament adopted a resolution which had called for the European Commission to review Pakistan’s eligibility for the GSP+ status, citing discriminatory laws towards minorities and fundamental rights.

The EU spokesperson said the bloc was “very closely” following the developments in Pakistan after the situation following the arrest of Khan on May 9.

The former prime minister was released on bail by courts three days later.

“We have already called on all sides to refrain from escalating the situation, pursue dialogue and respect for the rule of law,” said Massrali.

The spokesperson said the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell told conveyed the same message to Pakistan’s deputy foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar on the margins of the EU Indo-Pacific ministerial meeting in Sweden on May 13.

Pakistan clinched the GSP+ status in 2014.

Despite opposition and the passing of a resolution by the European Parliament, the country managed to secure an extension that is expiring at the end of the year.

The GSP+ status increased Pakistan’s exports to the EU from 3.56 billion Euros in 2013 to 6.64 billion in 2021, recording an 86 percent hike.

According to government data, the EU’s exports to Pakistan increased from 3.31 billion Euros to 5.59 Euros during the same period, representing a 69 percent increase. EFE

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