EU Parliament calls for review of Pakistan’s GSP+ status


Blasphemy law abuse

Observer Report

The European Parliament has 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, it emerged on Friday.

The resolution also calls on the Government of Pakistan to “unequivocally condemn” incitement to violence and discrimination against religious minorities in the country, and expresses “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.

Member of European Parliament Charlie Weimers of Sweden, who co-authored the resolution, in his speech during the parliament’s latest session cited various incidents of members of religious minorities killed or imprisoned in Pakistan over accusations of blasphemy.

“Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, rather than defend his citizens’ human rights against false accusers, […] equated denial of the Holocaust and genocide to criticism of Islam’s Prophet (PBUH),” he said in his remarks.

The lawmaker also tweeted: “Should Europe reward Pakistan’s mob justice targeting Christians and its Prime Minister relativising the Holocaust? My answer is no.”

Responding to the passage of the resolution, Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari while apparently referring to Weimers said: “It is unfortunate that the co-sponsor of the EU’s anti-Pakistan resolution was a member of a party that the Swedish PM Stefan Lofven referred to as ‘a neo-fascist single-issue party’ with ‘Nazi and racist roots’.”

She said the pertinent question now was “whether GSP Plus is getting muddied in Islamophobia?”

“We have issues to resolve but there has been more movement now on our Human Rights International Convention commitments than in previous governments.

The way forward is dialogue & negotiations, which we have been doing, not extreme public positionings. Unfortunate,” she wrote, tagging the EU ambassador to Pakistan in her tweet.

The EU resolution expresses particular concern regarding the case of couple Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Emmanuel, who were sentenced to death on blasphemy charges in 2014.

These charges emanated from the alleged sending of text messages disrespectful of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) from a phone number registered to Kausar to the person accusing the couple of blasphemy.

According to the resolution, the situation in Pakistan “continued to deteriorate in 2020 as the government systematically enforced blasphemy laws and failed to protect religious minorities from abuses by non-state actors.