GSP+ status: Pakistan decides to address reservations of EU

GSP+ status: Pakistan decides to address reservations of EU

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday chaired an important meeting to discuss a resolution passed by the European Parliament a few days ago which calls for a review of Pakistan’s GSP Plus status.

Addressing the meeting, Prime Minister Imran Khan stressed that the government will not compromise on the laws pertaining to finality of Prophethood, a private TV channel reported. The participants, during the meeting, decided to address the reservations of the European Union. It was also unanimously decided that the protection of minorities in the country would be ensured. The participants, according to reports, said the GSP Plus trade agreement has nothing to with the blasphemy laws. The meeting was briefed that Pakistan could face a loss of $3 billion if the GSP Plus status is revoked.

Last week, the European Parliament had adopted a resolution calling for a review of the GSP+ status granted to Pakistan in view of an ‘alarming increase’ in the use of blasphemy accusations in the country as well as rising number of online and offline attacks on journalists and civil society organisations. The resolution had also called on the Government of Pakistan to ‘unequivocally condemn’ incitement to violence and discrimination against religions minorities in the country, and had expressed ‘deep concern’ at the prevailing anti-French sentiment in Pakistan. “The EU Parliament calls on the Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) to immediately review Pakistan’s eligibility for GSP+ status in the light of current events and whether there is sufficient reason to initiate a procedure for the temporary withdrawal of this status and the benefits that come with it, and to report to the European Parliament on this matter as soon as possible”, according to the resolution.

In reaction to the development, Pakistan had said it was disappointed at the adoption of the resolution at the European Parliament on blasphemy laws in the country. “The discourse in the European Parliament reflects a lack of understanding in the context of blasphemy laws and associated religious sensitivities in Pakistan – and in the wider Muslim world,” Foreign Office had stated. “The unwarranted commentary about Pakistan’s judicial system and domestic laws are regrettable. Pakistan being a parliamentary democracy with a vibrant civil society, free media and independent judiciary, remained fully committed to the promotion and protection of human rights for all its citizens without discrimination. 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.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday met Islamabad-based ambassadors of countries belonging to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Recalling the two letters addressed by him to the leaders of the Islamic world last year, the prime minister briefed the envoys on Pakistan’s efforts at the international level to create awareness about Islamophobia and the need to collectively address the phenomenon.

The prime minister stressed that Pakistan’s initiatives were aimed at building mutual understanding and promoting inter-faith harmony. Noting that Islamophobic acts fan inter-religious hatred and disharmony among civilizations, the prime minister called for addressing the underlying reasons for the rise in such incidents worldwide. Falsely equating Islam with radicalism and terrorism, he added, was leading to the marginalization and stigmatization of Muslims.

The prime minister emphasized that the vilification of Islamic precepts and religious personalities, wrongly justified under the garb of the right to freedom of expression or opinion, hurts the sentiments of 1.5 billion Muslims around the world. He urged the OIC to work together for making the international community understand the deep-rooted love and reverence of all Muslims for Holy Prophet (PBUH) and the Holy Quran.

The prime minister also underlined the need for instituting legal safeguards aimed at protecting the sensitivities of all religious groups. He underscored the imperative of OIC’s collective efforts to project the true image of Islam, and its message of peace and tolerance. The prime minister reaffirmed that Pakistan remains committed to dialogue and cooperation with all members of the international community for promoting universal values of tolerance, mutual respect and peaceful co-existence among all nations and peoples.

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