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EU Commission pressed to review Pakistan’s GSP+ status over blasphemy

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A conference at the Press Club, Brussels,on September 9th, held under the auspices of Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF), called for the EU institutions to act in the case of Pakistan’s continued human rights abuses, in particular in regards to the country’s blasphemy laws, and the lack of respect for the presumption of innocence.

Specifically, and in regard to article 12 of the Joint Motion For A Resolution (RC-B9-0254/2021) of April 28th 2021, passed by 681 votes, “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;”

The conference heard that of the benefits given as a result of the current agreement with Pakistan, around 20% only accrued to the EU, causing, in the opinion of the conference, no significant potential detrimental economic impact on the EU or the member states.

The imposition of the mandatory death sentence for those found guilty of blasphemy against the prophet, particularly in the context of such charges having recently been levelled at an eight year old child, makes, in the opinion of the conference, the current GSP+ status enjoyed by Pakistan morally and politically untenable.

During the conference, the names of 48 prisoners currently held on blasphemy charges: Mubashir Ahmed; Gulab Ahmed; Ahtesham Ahmed; Zahid Ahmed; Ahmed Waqar; Anwar; Islam; Mailik Ashraf; Anwar Ashgar; Ahmed Ashgar; Noor Ashgar; Malik Ashraf; Kausar Ayub; Amud Ayub; Taimur; Siya; Raza; Zafar Bati; Md. Safi; Md. Shehzad; Rehmat Ali; Asif; Md. Aslam; Arif Mehdi; Junaid; Hafeez; Abdul Hamid; Md. Faruq; Hayai Bin; Malik; Md. Humayan Faysal; Aftab Mastargil; Nadeem James; Arif Masih; Stephen Masih; Saudi Issaq; Abdul Karim; Imran Massih; Yakub; Ishfaq Massih; Saba Massih; Bashir; Mastan Mushtaq; Shamsuddin; Md. Yussaf; Inayat Rasool; Iqbal and Md. Aslam. The list comprises Ahmediyyas, Shias, Hindus, and Christians.

Sixteen of the above have been handed a death sentence.

Accordingly, we wish to ask the High Representative – who has previously stated that suspension of Pakistan’s GSP+ status is a measure of last measures – “what his current position is in this regard.”

Also, given that Pakistan’s behaviour clearly contravenes the requirement for GSP+ beneficiaries to ratify 27 international conventions, numerous it is clearly in breach of, we respectfully ask “how the High Representative can justify the continuation of Pakistan’s GSP+ status?”

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