Granting GSP to Pakistan will erode European values, EU members feel

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Many of the EU members feel that granting Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) Plus to Pakistan would erode European values that GSP Plus seeks to promote, reported Geo-politik.

There is a widespread concern among many European Union (EU) members about granting GSP Plus to Pakistan because of its poor track record in complying with the international conventions set by the EU as prequalification criteria and lackadaisical approach in their implementation.

Pakistan must ensure that 27 UN conventions are implemented in the targeted areas to get Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) Plus. Experts opine that the values subscribed by the EU are at a great threat of erosion if GSP status is granted to Pakistan or any other country without stringent scrutiny of compliance on their part.

The EU’s GSP Plus is a special incentive arrangement for sustainable development and good governance, both of which are not up to mark in Pakistan, reported Geo-politik.

This special incentive arrangement aims to assist developing countries in exporting their products to the EU.

Many European observers opine that the values subscribed by the EU are at a great threat of erosion if GSP status is granted to Pakistan or any other country without stringent scrutiny of compliance on their part, reported Geo-politik.

Many of the human rights violations and maltreatment of labour, women and children arise in Pakistan because of its political and social structure. The prevalence of feudal mindset and regressive religious fundamentalism does not allow things to improve even if the Pak government is willing to do so.

The polity in the country is dominated by feudal elements and those who thrive on religious bigotry and the notion of Jihad. The situation is made worse by the religious priests (mullahs) who have a great imprint on the minds of the poor, illiterate and deprived, constituting more than 50 per cent of the Pak population depending upon the index or parameter selected to measure, reported Geo-politik.

Moreover, the Pak state is a complex entity due to the influence and control of the Pak military and intelligence, besides the religious fundamentalist leaders and terror outfits.

The ground reality is very scary. According to Global Economy.Com, the kidnapping rate was 8.9 kidnappings per 100,000 people in 2017 as against 9.1 in 2015, just after three years after getting the GSP Status.

The cases of kidnapping have not spared even children, women, UN staff and Chinese workers in the CPEC projects. More than 900 cases of child kidnapping were reported in Lahore, the capital city of Pakistan’s second largest province in 2022, reported Geo-politik.

According to estimates of human rights organizations, in Pakistan, on average over 1000 underage girls belonging to the minority Hindu, Christian and Sikh communities are kidnapped and forcefully converted to Islam every year, forcibly married and subjected to rape.

EU is poised to adopt a new set of prerequisites for the beneficiary countries of the GSP Plus with effect from January 2024, which would add additional international conventions and treaties to be complied with, reported Geo-politik.

There is a lot of speculation and brewing apprehension in Islamabad about losing GSP Plus status due to the addition of these new and additional criteria, given its past errors and omissions regarding compliance with the 27 international conventions required earlier.

Pakistan has many structural obstacles along with a regressive mindset that would obstruct it to comply with international conventions which are in sync with European values, reported Geo-politik.

The focal thrust of the EU regulations requires Pakistan to ratify and effectively implement 27 international conventions which broadly deal with human rights issues, labour rights and environmental standards.

It is an open secret that Pakistan is neither well disposed in its intent nor willing to comply with these international conventions in words and spirit, a prerequisite for GSP Plus status.

Besides, Pakistan has utterly failed to develop mechanisms and capabilities required for the implementation of these conventions, reported Geo-politik.

Since Pakistan was granted GSP Plus by the EU, it has been struggling and desperately trying to prove its worthiness for the same. But it could not win the confidence of the EU due to its non-compliance and weak implementation of these international conventions.

This is why the EU inspectors have visited Pakistan since 2014, the year it was granted the GSP Plus first, several times including once in 2016 and the other in 2022. The EU inspectors have always doubted Pakistan for glaring gaps in compliance and implementation about which they cautioned the country, reported Geo-politik.

The whole world is witness to the violation of human rights and erosion of democratic values and institutions in Pakistan from Sindh and Baluchistan to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.

Day in and day out cases of forced kidnapping and killing, reports about injustices meted out to the ethnic minorities and cruelty against them, excessive use of blasphemy laws and exploitation and subjugation of women and children sometimes even forcing them into slavery is the ground reality in the country.

These ground realities remain as they are for a long which is compelling many observers in the EU to question why GSP Plus status should be given to a country which has been failing for a long in complying with the international conventions representing the values of the EU, reported Geo-politik.

The importance of the GSP Plus for Pakistan could be understood from the fact that by 2022, the EU not only became the largest market for its exports claiming more than 30 per cent of its total exports leaving the US far behind at half of that at about 15 per cent.

This is why the Pak government and people at the helm are disturbed as the EU has announced to adopt of wider and much more stringent criteria for GSP Plus qualification from January 2024, while the ground realities of the country are neither favourable nor conducive to showcase compliance, reported Geo-politik.

The new conventions and treaties will add agreements on transnational crimes, the right of people with disabilities, the involvement of minors in armed conflict, and labour inspections among others. Islamabad knows very well that these additional criteria would be very difficult for it to comply with.

Good governance is a far cry in Pakistan. The common man in Pakistan is reeling under spiralling inflation and the rising cost of living and today even basic goods like wheat flour and medicine is not available to them. On the other side, there are multiple cases of corruption against the ruling elite of the country which includes even the defence officers, reported Geo-politik.

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