ISLAMABAD: The European Union's Special Representative for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore, who just wrapped up his visit to Islamabad has pointed out that there are still three areas where the government needs to focus upon. He, however, praised Pakistan for taking some forward steps while making new laws.
Gilmore's advice to the Pakistan government comes at a time when the EU will decide about extending the (GSP+) status for 2024 to Pakistan after reviewing the country's two-year performance report on exports for the years 2020 and 2021.
GSP is an entrenched trade and development policy instrument, in place since 1971. Pakistan is the major recipient of the GSP scheme for the last seven years. Under this status, set to expire on Dec 31, 2023, there is zero per cent duty on several products.
Under the current GSP+ system, the EU continues monitoring the progress made by the beneficiary countries on effective implementation of 27 international conventions on human rights, labour rights, environmental protection and good governance.
According to the European Union office in Islamabad, Gilmore pointed to labour rights in which he said women earn less than minimum wage in the textiles industry, a sector that heavily benefits from the GSP+ programme. "Women earn less than child labour and bonded labour, which possibly increased owing to the pandemic, must be addressed immediately," said the EU.
In the area of education, Gilmore said that a large number of children are out-of-school and are being placed in a cycle of disadvantage while the society misses the untapped potential of skilled and engaged citizens.
Most important for policymakers in Islamabad, Gilmore pointed to the criteria for compliance with Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+] conventions that span across human rights, labour rights, environment and good governance.
It was in his public talk at the Islamabad Institute of Strategic Studies that Gilmore, while highlighting the centrality of human rights in EU foreign policy and underlining that EU engages globally on the basis of partnership and respect for human rights values, said, "Human rights don't belong to any state but to people everywhere in every country."
In Lahore, Gilmore also discussed labour rights and human rights related issues with the business representatives and civil society organisations. He recognised the progress made with the introduction of new laws, including the Anti-Rape Law, Anti-Torture Law, Anti-Harassment at Workplace Law, Journalist Protection Bill, significant reform on the death penalty and no execution for the last two years and inheritance provisions for women, but urged the Pakistan government to continue the implementation of laws to make real progress for everyone in society.
During the tour, Gilmore held wide-ranging meeting with the Pakistan government officials, civil society representatives, human rights activists, religious minority representatives and media workers in Islamabad and Lahore. This year marks the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the European Union and Pakistan.
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