European Parliament lacks understanding of blasphemy laws in Pakistan, says FO

A look at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building. Photo: File
  • FO says discourse in European Parliament reflects a lack of understanding in the context of blasphemy laws in Pakistan.
  • Says unwarranted commentary by European Parliament about Pakistan’s judicial system and domestic laws was regrettable.
  • FO statement comes a day after European Parliament adopted a resolution against Pakistan for a review of country’s GSP Plus status.

The Foreign Office (FO) on Friday expressed disappointment over the European Parliament’s resolution on Pakistan and said that the body lacks the contextual understanding of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

“Pakistan is disappointed at the adoption of a resolution at the European Parliament on blasphemy laws in the country. The discourse in the European Parliament reflects a lack of understanding in the context of blasphemy laws and associated religious sensitivities in Pakistan – and in the wider Muslim world,” said Foreign Office Spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri in a statement.

The statement added that the “unwarranted commentary” by the lawmaking body of the regional bloc “about Pakistan’s judicial system and domestic laws” was “regrettable”.

Read more: EU gives Pakistan favourable review for GSP+ status

The FO reminded the EU that Pakistan is a “parliamentary democracy with a vibrant civil society, free media, and independent judiciary”. It reiterated that Pakistan remains “fully committed to the promotion and protection of human rights for all its citizens without discrimination”.

“We are proud of our minorities who enjoy equal rights and complete protection of fundamental freedoms as enshrined in the Constitution,” said the FO. It added that the judicial and administrative mechanisms and remedies are in place in the country to help guard any individual “against any human rights violations”.

“Pakistan has played an active role in promoting freedom of religion or belief, tolerance, and inter-faith harmony. At a time of rising Islamophobia and populism, the international community must exhibit a common resolve to fight xenophobia, intolerance, and incitement to violence based on religion or belief and work together to strengthen peaceful co-existence,” said the FO.

Read more: PM Imran Khan’s aide says misuse of blasphemy laws stopped in Pakistan

Chaudhri reminded that Pakistan and the regional bloc have multiple mechanisms to discuss “entire spectrum of bilateral relations, including a dedicated Dialogue on Democracy, Rule of Law, Governance and Human Rights”.

He added that Pakistan “would continue to remain positively engaged with the EU on all issues of mutual interest”.

EU parliament wants Pakistan’s GSP plus status reviewed

On Thursday, the European Parliament adopted a resolution against Pakistan which asks for a review of the country’s GSP Plus (GSP+) status, citing an increase in laws that it sees as discriminatory towards minorities and fundamental rights.

The resolution was presented by Renew Europe, a liberal, pro-European political group of the European Parliament. It was adopted with a majority of 681 votes against six.

The resolution says Pakistan has violated the conditions of its Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus status.

Read more: Pakistan to unite Muslim countries under one banner against Islamophobia, says PM Imran Khan

The GSP+ is a special component of the GSP scheme that provides additional trade incentives to developing countries already benefitting from GSP.

The GSP+ status granted to Pakistan requires the country to demonstrate progress on the implementation of 27 international core conventions. This condition constitutes strong leverage for the European Union in terms of monitoring any direct advocacy with Pakistan, said the European Commission.

The EU Parliament session discussed the situation of religious freedoms in Pakistan under its “human rights and democracy resolutions” manifesto.

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Sajjad Karim, a former negotiator on GSP plus and part of the EU Parliament trade committee says the adoption of this resolution is “serious.”

He said it is backed by the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee David McAllister and former chief election observer to Pakistan from EU Michael Ghaler – both of whom were previously always supportive of GSP+ for Pakistan.

He said Ghaler raised his concerns with him over the topic some time ago.

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