The international pressure on Pakistan continues to increase with every passing day and it seems the country simply can’t catch a respite. This time around, The Europe India Chamber of Commerce (EICC) has written a letter to the EU Commissioner for Trade, European Commission, Cecelia Malmstrom to immediately withdraw the Generalised System Preferences (GSP) plus status to Pakistan, over the country’s continued religious persecution of Sikhs, Hindus and Christians in the country.
The EU has a policy of not granting trade privileges to any country with a record of human rights violations as seen in the case of Sri Lanka. It suspended the trade privileges granted to the island country, which have now been restored.
The demand for revocation of the GSP plus status granted to Pakistan was raised by the Members of European Parliament(MEP) during a European Parliament meeting on Human Rights. The logic of continuing the GSP plus status of Pakistan was questioned by one MEP as the European parliament in the recent past passed three resolutions on the Human Rights situation in Pakistan.
If the EU would move to revoke the GSP plus status of Pakistan, it will signal alarm bells for an already sinking economy as the country lies severely cash strapped. Pakistan’s export to Europe increased by 55% after it was granted GSP plus status and now the EU is all set to review the implementation of twenty-seven conventions of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which is a requirement for GSP plus status.
Pakistan’s atrocities against its minorities are well documented. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent Pakistani watchdog, the country has failed to tackle several issues over the last year with forced disappearances becoming a regular occurrence. In their report, they have claimed that people continue to disappear if anyone criticizes the military or tries to advocate for better relations with India and the report further claims that attacks against the minorities were on the rise.
Recently some gunmen attacked Christian worshippers as they left Sunday services in Quetta which resulted in the deaths of two while injuring five others. The minorities are often accused of blasphemy against Islam which in turn results in violence.
Lately, Baloch activists organised a campaign in Geneva to highlight Human Rights violations by Pakistan. The activists claim that, in the garb of China Pakistan Economic Corridor, the Pakistan military is burning villages in a bid to uproot Baloch from their homes to make room for the settlement of Chinese colonies. Balochistan continues to be neglected as its women and children are routinely abducted, harassed, and tortured by the Pakistani security forces. Over 57% of people in Balochistan fall under the poverty line and aren’t able to afford two square meals for their children which has led to five in ten children being malnourished in Balochistan. The literacy rate is also poor as out of every 100 children, 63 are not in school.
The plight of Hindu sisters Reena and Raveena also found a mention in EICC’s letter to Cecelia Malmstrom where the sisters were kidnapped, forced to convert and married off to Muslim men. This happens to be a common practice which has been going for quite some time as ‘Christians and Hindus’ continue to be a soft target due to their poor background and according to Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission, more than 1,000 underage Christian and Hindu girls were forcibly converted last year.
The Human Rights Watch said, “The blasphemy-related violence against religious minorities, fostered in parts by the government’s persecution and discriminatory laws, is frequent.”
Even a United States-led commission stated that religious extremists have regularly attacked minorities with impunity and massive Human Rights violations were being carried out against Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Shi’a Muslims.
The letter further states that the continued violence against the minorities stands against the ethos of European values, life and respect for minorities. The GSP plus tag was awarded to the country based on certain promises made by Pakistan which needless to say have been broken by the latter.
From 23% at the time of Partition, Hindus constitute around 5-6% of the total population today and now Baldev Kumar, the former legislator of Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) sought asylum in India after seeing the atrocities committed against the minorities in Pakistan and unsurprisingly, he has now started receiving death threats. The European Commission simply cannot afford to turn a blind eye to this atrocities and must revoke the GSP plus status granted to Pakistan.