A resolution was adopted by European Parliament this week calling for a review of trade relations with Pakistan and ending its eligibility for the Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP) status.
It was linked to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, in particular, the case of Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Emmanuel, who have been on death row since 2014 for sending ‘blasphemous’ text messages — a charge they deny. It was overwhelmingly passed — 662 to 3 — with 26 not voting.
Furthermore, the text called on the European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) to “immediately review Pakistan’s eligibility for GSP+ status in light of current events”.
“Sufficient reasons” have been found to initiate a procedure for the temporary withdrawal of this status and the benefits that come with it.
Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari reacted to the development.
“We have issues to resolve but there has been more movement now on our HR Int Convention commitments than in previous govts. The way forward is dialogue & negotiations, which we have been doing, not extreme public positioning.”She tweeted.
Pakistan was granted GSP+ in 2014 and the EU is one of its biggest trading partners.
With low standards of evidence, “Judicial procedures in blasphemy cases in Pakistan are highly flawed,” the resolution said.
“Pakistan continued to deteriorate in 2020 as the government systematically enforced blasphemy laws and failed to protect religious minorities from abuses.”It also noted.
The text of the resolution said “repeated and deceptive attacks against the French authorities” by radical groups and statements made by the government on the issue have escalated.
“[The European Parliament is] deeply concerned by the anti-French sentiment in Pakistan, which has led French nationals and companies to have to leave the country temporarily.”It said.
Member of European Parliament (MEP) Charlie Weimers of Sweden co-authored the resolution. He tweeted: “Should Europe reward Pakistan’s mob justice targeting Christians and its Prime Minister relativising the Holocaust? My answer is no.”
European Commission says the EU is Pakistan’s most important trading partner.
“As a result of GSP+, more than 78% of Pakistan’s exports enter the EU at preferential rates. Around 80% of the textiles and clothing articles imported to the EU from Pakistan enter the EU at a preferential tariff rate. Around a quarter of these imports are bed linen, table linen, and toilet and kitchen linen.”A country profile on Pakistan said.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office expressed disappointment over the European Parliament’s resolution.
While reacting to the development, the FO regretted that the discourse in the European Parliament was ill-informed about the context of blasphemy laws and associated religious sensitivities in Pakistan.
The FO statement also rejected the criticism of Pakistan’s judicial system and domestic laws as unwarranted and regrettable.
“We are proud of our minorities who enjoy equal rights and complete protection of fundamental freedoms as enshrined in the Constitution. Judicial and administrative mechanisms and remedies are in place to guard against any human rights violations.”The statement said.
The FO urged the international community to show a resolve to fight xenophobia, intolerance and incitement to violence based on religion or belief and work together to strengthen peaceful coexistence.