European Parliament calls for “immediate reassessment of the EU-Pakistan trade regime"

In April of this year, the European Parliament called for an “immediate reassessment of the EU-Pakistan trade regime," with voices calling for a temporary withdrawal of the Generalised System of Preferences-Plus (GSP+) status, granted in January 2014 subject to Pakistan agreeing to implement 27 internationally recognised conventions.

The status allows products to come into the EU market from developing countries without import duties. As a result Pakistan’s exports to the EU increased from €4.538 billion to €7.492 billion: an increase of 65%.

The EU is now Pakistan's second most important trading partner, accounting for 14.3% of Pakistan's total trade in 2020 and absorbing 28% of Pakistan's total exports, which are primarily textiles and clothing.

However, the EU's 3rd Biennial Assessment of GSP, published in 2020, noted that Pakistan has failed to make meaningful advances in protecting human rights, particularly in relation to the country's controversial blasphemy laws. Those accused of blasphemy are subject to immediate incarceration, and most accused are denied bail. Many, even when acquitted or released from jail, have been murdered.

Pakistan has also reconstituted the death penalty, which is mandatory in the case of blasphemy against Muhammad or any other prophet.

Earlier this year, an eight year-old boy was charged under the laws.

It has become increasingly difficult to fight for human rights in Pakistan at a time when the authorities continue to forcibly disappear people, censor journalists, crack down on peaceful demonstrations and enforce repression through draconian laws.

Omar Waraich, Deputy South Asia Director at Amnesty International

The Taliban connection:

Pakistan's GSP+ status is also being brought into question as the country - which previously gave sanctuary to international terrorist chief Osama Bin Laden - gives its support for the Taliban, stating that it will recognise the group as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

Indeed, Pakistan's ruling PTI leader Neelam Irshad Sheikh said last week that "Taliban have said they are with us and they will help us in liberating Kashmir," suggesting that the group will engage in the ongoing conflict there.

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The PTI party was formed in 1996 by Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan, who, like Mullah Mohammed Omar, the founder of the Taliban, is a Pashtun.

Almost all leadership positions in the group, which has traditionally been funded and armed by Pakistan's security services, are occupied by Pashtuns, for whom Islam is considered to be a less important factor than Pashtun nationalism.

Another prominent Pashtun politician of Pakistani heritage is London Mayor Sadiq Khan. An outspoken critic of former Prime Minister Tony Blair's anti-terror laws - in 2002 he defended in an Egyptian court advocates of Hizb ut-Tahrir, described as "an international pan-Islamist and fundamentalist political organisation whose stated aim is the re-establishment of the Islamic caliphate to unite the Muslim community and implement sharia law globally."

The group has traditionally been active in Pakistan, although it is outlawed there as it is in many countries, managing to infiltrate the army at the highest of levels.

Whilst Khan has been Mayor, London's murder rate has soared to a ten-year high.

He has recently called for public funds to be used to purchase properties to house Afghan refugees in London.

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Phillipe Jeune

Phillipe Jeune

Phillipe Jeune is a Paris-based freelance journalist, and an occasional contributor to EU Today. He has a background in intelligence gathering, and he specialises in business and political matters, with a particular interest in Central Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas.

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