ISLAMABAD: Ambassador to the European Union (EU) delegation to Pakistan Lars-Gunnar Bertil Wigemark expressed his concerns over the lifting of the moratorium on the death penalty, and the state of women's and minority rights in the country.
Ambassador Wigemark was met by his counterpart Additional Secretary to Europe Nadeem Riyaz. The two delegations convened today in Islamabad for the First Pakistan-EU Local Human Rights Dialogue which was held under the framework of the Pakistan-EU Joint Commission.
The commission aims to oversee the implementation of the Pakistan-EU Five-Year Engagement Plan proposed in 2012. The plan focuses on promoting cooperation between the two regions by cultivating a partnership based on shared values and priorities.
The meeting in Islamabad today concentrated on Pakistan's Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) Plus status and the country's history regarding socio-economic issues.
A Foreign Ministry spokesperson said, "Both sides discussed the issues of GSP Plus Status and implementation of its related 27 Conventions, human rights, death penalty, gender equality and labour standards."
The spokesperson said the Pakistan delegation had reiterated the country's commitment to implementation of the 27 ratified pre-requisites to GSP Plus status.
GSP Plus status is an extension of the EU GSP scheme of tariff concessions which are applicable to exports made to the EU by developing countries.
GSP Plus status is extended to countries that have applied for the tariff scheme and implemented the 27 international ratified conventions. The preferential trade status is subject to review every two years.
According to a report released by the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), the 27 conventions applicable to Pakistan consist of:

  • Eight environmental conventions
  • Eight labour rights conventions
  • Seven human rights conventions
  • Three narcotics control conventions
  • One corruption convention

The meeting occurred on the eve of the reinstatement of the death penalty for capital offenses including rape, blasphemy and murder.
"[The] Pakistani [delegation] raised the issue of misuse of freedom of speech and both sides agreed to work together for promotion of inter-faith harmony", the spokesperson said.
Earlier this year, Federal Commerce Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan had been quick to dismiss concerns over the threat to Pakistan's GSP Plus status, commenting, "There is no legal obligation to EU regarding death penalty, though they have expressed concern over it."
"They understand our situation that GSP Plus would help us create jobs and when we create jobs, it keeps young men and women away from terrorism," he went on to say.
Read more: Death penalty moratorium lifted completely in Pakistan: Officials
Pakistan has been on the receiving end of various bans and sanctions by the EU including:

While a majority of bans are imposed on Pakistan for reasons related to quality control, it is not unheard of for a country to face trade embargoes for human rights and international law violations.
The EU delegation appreciated the positive developments in Pakistan in the context of human rights and offered its cooperation and assistance in various areas of socio-economic development.
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