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Just Another Carte blanche? GSP Plus Status and Human Rights in Pakistan

Siegfried O. Wolf December 6, 2013

South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF) Avenue des Arts – 1210 Brussels, Belgium www.sadf.eu


About the Author Dr. Siegfried O. Wolf is Director of Research at SADF. He was educated at the Institute of Political Science (IPW) and South Asia Institute (SAI), both Heidelberg University. Additionally he is lecturer in International Relations and Comparative Politics at SAI as well as a former research fellow at IPW and Centre de Sciences Humaines (New Delhi, India). Before starting his academic career, Dr. Siegfried O. Wolf worked for various consultancies specialising in political communication, e.g. promoting the interaction and cooperation between academic, political and economic spheres. He is the co-author of ‘A Political and Economic Dictionary of South Asia’ (Routledge: London, 2006), and Deputy Editor of the ‘Heidelberg Papers in South Asian and Comparative Politics’ (HPSACP). Furthermore, he has worked as a consultant for the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Germany.

About SADF COMMENTS This series is run by the research department of SADF. It intends to contribute innovative thinking on significant debates as well as providing immediate objective in depth coverage of contemporary occurrences and developments in the South Asian region. The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone and do not in any way reflect the views of the institutions referred to or represented within this paper.

About SADF South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF) is a non-partisan, autonomous think tank dedicated to objective research on all aspects of democracy, human rights, security, and intelligent energy among other contemporary issues in South Asia. SADF is based in Brussels and works in a close partnership with the Department of Political Science at South Asia Institute, Heidelberg University.


Over the last decades, the European Union

programme, known as GSP Plus. Under this

(EU) became not only Pakistan’s most

programme the beneficiary state is granted

important trading partner but also tried to get

special trade preferences, namely tariff

active in supporting the democratic process

reductions to developing countries.2 The

and strengthening the socio-economic fabric

agreement is unilateral, subsequently the EU

of Pakistan. It is important to note that the

does not require the beneficiary countries to

EU’s activities in Pakistan should rather be

grant tariff reductions or other benefits from

seen in the context of economic aid and

their sides. Basically it provides for a flexible

development assistance1 than as part of the

scheme of preferences according to the

EU’s security framework or a sustainable

individual needs of the recognized countries.

political dialogue. Consequently, the EU interprets its relationship with Pakistan

Apart from the overall disastrous socio-

basically as a donor-recipient relationship

economic conditions of Pakistan, some

(Abbasi, 2009, 3). Also the agreed EU-

moderate improvements in several sectors,

Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, which was held

like

for the first time on 5 June 2012, did not

reconstruction measures after the 2005

change much in operational terms besides

earthquake or the 2010 and 2011 floods)3,

recognizing each other’s strategic important.

were achieved. But the country’s economy

Nevertheless, perhaps because of this

still suffers from endemic corruption, a weak

relative political indifference on the part of the

administrative-institutional framework, and a

EU, Pakistan managed to extract several

lack of professionalism among its political

concessions that are beneficial for its

leadership.

economic relations with the EU, such as the

situation is deteriorating, especially in the

earlier given concessionary access to the

provinces

European markets (cf. Ali, 2013). Today, EU

Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), and in the city of

is considering Pakistan for the new GSP

Karachi (cf. ILO, 2013b). In consequence, the

(Generalised

Preferences)

country’s miserable performance in socio-

Most of the European Commission assistance, which was between 1971 and 2008 around 500 million, was spent on infrastructure and social programmes in Pakistan. Additional support was provided by individual aid schemes provided by Germany, France and the UK (cf. Islam, 2008, 3). 2 See for more details: European Commission, Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP),

http://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/countries-andregions/development/generalised-scheme-ofpreferences/index_en.htm 3 See for more information: Islam (2008, 3); Asian Development Bank, Pakistan Floods 2010. Preliminary Damage and Needs Assessment, [http://gfdrr.org/sites/gfdrr.org/files/publication/Pa kistan_DNA.pdf].

Scheme

of

1

1

constructions

(mainly

Furthermore of

Baluchistan

because

the and

of

security Khyber


economic

and

human

development

is

improve the country’s tattered international

featured by slow growth, extensive power

standing.

outages,

significantly from its image of being one of the

excessive

unpredictable

and

budget

severe

deficits,

power

load

world’s

Pakistan’s greatest

reputation

hubs

for

suffered

international

shedding continued, and draining foreign

terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism, a source

exchange reserves (cf. ADB, 2013, 105, 110-

of all kinds of instability leading to the

111). According to data available, more than

suppression of ethnic and religious minorities

60 percent of the population is living on less

and tensed relations with its neighbours.

than $2 a day, while the economy is

Especially

experiencing an inflation rate of 9,7 % per

human rights situation in the country (cf.

cent in 20124 (WDI, 2013; BTI, 2013).

USDS, 2013b, 1), enforced by religious

Therefore, it seems obvious that Pakistan is

fanaticism and certain state agencies acting

in need for the GSP Plus status. Among the

with impunity, is a matter of severe concern

protagonists, there are no doubts that the

that is shared by many Pakistan observers

GSP Plus status will give a boost for the

around the globe.

country’s

economy

(cf.

Dawn,

the

persistently

deteriorating

2013a),

especially the textile and clothing sector

In order to achieve the GSP Plus Status, it is

would benefit from unrestricted access to the

mandatory for Pakistan to ensure human

EU’s single market (cf. ITC 2013, 3-4).

rights protection and to examine ways of

Pakistani analysts have calculated that GSP

ensuring compliance with key human rights

Plus is expected to help Islamabad earn an

conventions. More concrete, Pakistan has to

additional USD 550-700 million per year with

apply and prove following: First, that it has

an increase in exports of USD 2 billion (Mirza,

ratified a list of 27 conventions. In order to get

2013; Daily Times, 2013). It is estimated that

GSP Plus, which has to be understood as a

20 percent of the country’s exports would be

“special

allowed to enter the EU duty-free in and 70

sustainable

percent would benefit from preferential rates

governance” (EC, 2008), one has to sign and

(Gishkori/Rana,

Furthermore,

ratify 16 international conventions on human

Islamabad considers the granting of GSP+ a

rights and labour rights, and 11 conventions

matter of prestige, for it hopes that it will

on good governance and the environment.

2013).

4

The ADB claims for 2012 even 12 per cent inflation (ADB, 2013, XXI).

2

incentive

arrangement

development

and

for good


Second, Pakistan must not demonstrate

devastating facts on the ground, there is a

serious problems with the implementation of

tremendous

these conventions (cf. Ali, 2013). Third, that it

aspirations and concrete practice’ regarding

has not formulated any reservations to those

the political will and the capacities of the

conventions. Furthermore, Pakistan has to

national government. For example, besides

commit

monitoring

the ratification of UNCAT, serious human

requirements. Here, Pakistan must provide

rights issues still exist such as extrajudicial

comprehensive information concerning the

and targeted killings, forced disappearances,

required legislation and measures taken to

and torture, which affected thousands of

implement them consequently.

citizens in nearly all parts of the country (cf.

to

a

serious

of

5

gap

between

‘expressed

In several of these points Pakistan took some

USDS, 2013b, 1; cf. AHRC, 2012, 3-6).7

steps, at least on paper. These include the

Therefore it seems for Pakistan to be more

International Covenant on Civil and Political

than only ‘a Herculean task’ to match the

Rights (ICCPR) and UN Convention against

requirements for GSP Plus in a credible

Torture (UNCAT)6. Pakistan also withdrew

manner.

the reservation on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination as directed by

Having this in mind, it is legitimate to raise

the EU for acquiring GSP plus in 2014.

several questions: Should Pakistan receive

However, one has to be aware that even

the GSP Plus status in light of their human

though Islamabad has signed and ratified

rights record? Especially given that the

conventions,

mandatory

they

have

not

been

implementation

of

the

27

implemented. In some cases the government

conventions does not appear to have taken

has lodged numerous reservations on human

place? What will the impact of receiving the

rights conventions, which must be still lifted

GSP Plus Status have on minorities and

(cf. Ali, 2013) and/or internalised in the mind-

marginalised

set

decision-makers.

concerning these groups? Will this be

Furthermore, if one believes non-partisan

negative or positive? What can the EU do to

human

ensure Pakistan’s compliance with the

of

the rights

political reports,

pointing

at

the

5

6

See for more details: European Commission, Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP), http://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/countries-andregions/development/generalised-scheme-ofpreferences/index_en.htm.

groups

and

the

issues

Both signed in April 2008 and ratified in June 2010. 7 Only in 2012, more than 1300 cases of torture were reported and that the Army is reportedly running 52 detention centers (Sajjad, 2013; cf. AHRC, 2012, 5).

3


mandatory conventions? Should this trade

Delegated Act gets the approval of the

agreement be used as a tool to direct

European Parliament, the GSP Plus Status

Pakistan

will come into effect from 1 January 2014.

towards

doing

more

for

the

protection of minority groups? How can this

For the time being, it seems that Pakistan’s

be achieved? What can minority groups do,

diplomatic and lobby machinery was able to

using the GSP Plus status decision, to put

convince the most important decision-making

them in a better position within society

circles within the EU of following things: First,

Pakistan? And last but not least, will the EU

they have the political will and the capacities

be as strict with Pakistan as it was with Sri

to deal with the prerequisites for getting the

Lanka as it withdrew the forerunner model of

GSP Plus Status. Second, to improve the

GSP Plus after not fulfilling any more

weak coordination and cooperation between

respective mandatory requirements?

its own institutional structures to be able to carry out the entire GSP Plus programme.

In spite of all criticism, on Thursday 5

Third, the respective authorities were able to

November 2013 a significant step in the

convince the originally ‘indifferent attitude’ of

direction of granting GSP Plus status was

the

made as the International Trade Committee

conditions. Apparently Pakistani companies

of the European Parliament (INTA) voted

are keen on receiving GSP Plus for Pakistan

against a resolution8 of Southern European

since it reduces competition from more

countries opposing the grant of the status to

advanced economies, for example through

a batch of 10 newly-selected countries,

the additional tariff reductions. However, for

including

2013).

several reasons the enthusiasm about it

However, the final decision is still pending

remains relatively moderate (cf. Riaz, 2013).

since there is still the possibility that a

The new obligations that arise from the GSP

negative resolution could be made during the

Plus Status, like the respect of labour rights

European

as well as environmental protection, will

Pakistan

(cf.

Parliament’s

Khan,

plenary

session

private

sector

create

December 2013 (cf. EUDP, 2013). Also the

entrepreneurs. Here, it is important to note

Council of the EU will be able to express its

that large sections of the Pakistani industry

views on the issue. But if the Single

have not been able to invest much in capacity

See for more information regarding the resolution EP (2013).

4

for

some

GSP Plus

which is to be held in the second week of

8

challenges

towards

Pakistani


building in the last years and some parts are

remain under provincial labour law which

inoperative due to gas and power shortages

partly conflicts with international conventions

(cf. Dawn, 2013b; cf. ITC 2013). By making

(USDS 2013b, 54-55).12 Another remarkable

their own cost-benefit analyses, they may still

case is the National Plan of Action for Decent

not be convinced that the expected additional

Work

profit from an increase in exports to the EU

supposed to plan several reform measures

will have the potential to redeem the extra

with the Decent Work Program of ILO (cf.

costs

international

ILO, 2013a). But their operationalization is far

standards. This is gaining significance, since

away from being satisfactory. Therefore it

Pakistan has ratified 34 conventions of the

appears

International Labour Organization (ILO) but

government to ensure compliance with ILO

also here no remarkable and substantial

conventions

efforts

their

2013b). This raises doubts about whether the

implementation. For example, in March 2012

country is able to meet international labour

the Pakistan Parliament passed a new

standards at all. At least for the moment it

federal Industrial Relations Act (IRA)10 which

appears that ‘enforcement of labour laws

was supposed to address the conventions

[has] remained weak, in large part due to lack

(and concerns) of ILO conventions. However,

of resources and political will’ (USDS, 2013b,

it IRA was only implemented in the Islamabad

56).

Capital

Fourth,

9

for

respecting

were

made

Territory

but

the

to

not

ensure

in

the

four

(NPADW

that

it

2010-2015)13

the

role

remains

seems

of

is

the federal

unclear

that

which

the

(USDS,

Pakistani

provinces11, where the main economic

government was also able to give an

centres are located. As a result, the bulk of

impression that the human rights situation in

the country’s workforces are not covered by

the country is improving. But as already

federal labour regulations of any kind but

indicated above, this does not reflect the

9

12

For example, Punjab’s Industrial Relations Act (IRA) bans labour unions in companies with 50 or fewer employees. Or more in general at the provincial level, ‘collective bargaining rights continued to exclude banking and financial sector workers, forestry workers, hospital workers, selfemployed farmers, and persons employed in an administrative capacity or managerial capacity’ (USDS, 2013b, 44). 13 See for detailed information: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/bureau/program/ dwcp/download/pakistan2010-15.pdf.

On top of this, several analysts argue that Pakistan will be not be able to use to a large extent GSP plus, since the country is not able to integrate ‘non-traditional’ sections of Pakistan economy in the export business (like seafood and agricultural products), either because of logistic reasons or poor hygienic conditions (cf. ITC 2013, 5, 10; Sajjad, 2013). 10 The Gazette of Pakistan, March 14, 2012, http://www.na.gov.pk/uploads/documents/13359 34287_218.pdf. 11 Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK).

5


realities on the ground. Religious and ethnic

its expression in an increase of attacks

minority rights are often bluntly violated and

against religious minorities in quantitative

the rights and interests of certain regions like

and qualitative terms. It is important to note

Balochistan or Gilgit-Baltistan are treated

that

with contempt. In brief, the human rights

(Zoroastrians),

situation in Pakistan is remains murky.

communities and numerous other religious15

Hindu,

Christian, Ahmadiyya

Sikh,

Parsi

and

Shia

minorities are persecuted from two different This is not a new phenomenon but rather a

directions: From one side by several state

continuation of a trend which emerged over

actors, especially from the omnipresent

the last decades. Seen in this light, 2013

security agencies, namely the army, including

marks just another unfortunate highlight,

paramilitary forces, intelligence forces and

despite the promising general elections last

the police. But also from another side by non-

May. If one believes the international media,

state

this event is supposed to be the long desired

fundamentalists like the Taliban (cf. GHRD,

critical juncture able to break finally with the

2012, 16; cf. AHRC, 2012, 12-22).

autocratic political patterns of the past.14

This can happen because of a multitude of

Undoubtedly, the first transfer of power

reasons:

between two civilian governments is a

constitution and other laws officially restrict

milestone in the country’s chequered political

religious freedom (USDS, 2013a, 1; UKHO,

history. The remarkable enthusiasm among

2013, 116-120). Most important in this

the Pakistani people about casting one's vote

context is that it seems that the government

is a promising indicator for a potential

and its respective state agencies have the

process of democratic transition in future.

political will and the capacities to enforce

However,

violations

many of these restrictions. This is a

continued unabatedly over the last months:

phenomenon which one can find only

Intimidation

against

rudimentarily when it comes to the protection

communities of religious minorities and no

of religious minorities (cf. AI, 2012). Although

serious efforts to combat them – it remains

the constitution (Article 20) guarantees

the norm rather than the exception. This finds

“Freedom to profess religion and to manage

14

Khojas, Bohars), Medi Foundation, Jews. See for more detailed information Shaun/Valentine (2009).

the of

human and

rights violence

See for a more detailed elaboration on the General Elections 2013 in Pakistan Wolf (2013a; 2013b; 2013c). 15 Other religious communities are for example, Baha’i, Zikris, Ismailis (including Dawoodis,

6

actors,

To

foremost

begin

militant

with,

the

Islamic

current


religious institutions” and that “(a) every

GHRD, 2002, 7-9; cf. AI, 2012), especially

citizen shall have the right to profess, practice

Christians and Hindus, by religious fanatics,

and propagate his religion”; and “(b) every

especially in the last five years. Also the

religious

sect

Ahmadiyya have to suffer from the misuse of

thereof shall have the right to establish,

laws (cf. Shaun/Valentine, 2009; 24-30; cf.

maintain

religious

Valentine, 2008). Here, Islamists are using

“adequate

the so called ‘anti-Ahmadiyya’ provisions of

provisions shall be made for minorities to

the penal code to justify abuses and

profess and practice their religious beliefs

discriminations.

freely” the state prefers to put emphasis on

discriminatory effects Islamists and Islamist-

other provisions of the constitution and laws

friendly media spread their ideology of hate

which limit this right of religious freedom.17

in derogatory reports against Ahmadiyya,

There is no doubt that within the country’s

Christians,

legal framework tends to prefer protecting the

communities in major Urdu dailies.

denomination and

institutions”.16

and

manage Furthermore,

every its

To

Hindus,

catalyse

Jews,

the

and

other

religious majority at the expense of the rights of the religious minorities. The most dramatic

Additionally, apart from the unfortunate

and prominent example thereof is the

domestic legal framework, the situations for

existence and application of the Blasphemy

the religious minorities are getting even more

Laws. No other law has had as grave

complicated when it comes to international

implications for religious minorities as have

human

the blasphemy laws. (cf. Gishkori/Rana,

improvement

2013). Any state functionary or private

inadequate implementation of the human

person can file a complaint against any

rights treaties that the country had ratified. In

person under these laws. In almost all cases,

this

no solid written proof is required, just the

organizations are complaining that the

offensive remarks and a few witnesses are

government of Pakistan failed in particular to

enough to get a conviction. Therefore,

implement “the recommendations made to

blasphemy laws have been repeatedly

ensure fair trials, punish cases of abuse by

misused against religious minorities (cf.

security forces, and ensure that victims have

16

17

For Article 20, Constitution of Pakistan (Article 20) please consult: http://www.pakistani.org/pakistan/constitution/par t2.ch1.html.

rights

direction,

is

commitments. needed

several

due

human

Much to

the

rights

See Constitution of Pakistan: http://www.pakistani.org/pakistan/constitution/; see also USDS (2013a).

7


access to protection and redress” (AHRC,

directed at threatening and attacking state

2012). The Human Rights Commission of

institutions but also at silencing political and

Pakistan is going even a step further by

religious tolerance in the country. This finds

stating that “no progress was made at all in

its expression in the fact that people willing to

implementing treaties” (HRCP, 2013, 1).

defend human rights are becoming the target

It does not come as a surprise, that

of violent harassment and attacks in an

Pakistan’s executive as well as legislative

increasing degree and are left without

have only limited interests in protecting the

sufficient protection (cf. GHRD, 2012, 16; cf.

rights

is

AHRC, 2012, 6-7). The 2011 target killings of

astonishing that also the country’s judiciary

then Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and

remains silent about the situation of non-

Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz

Muslims in Pakistan. This lack of sufficient

Bhatti,

laws and political as well as judicial interests

blasphemy laws and interreligious dialogue,

in protecting religious minorities is gaining

are two of the most prominent and traumatic

particular importance if one looks at the

examples thereof (cf. AHRC, 2012, 6).

to religious freedom.

But

it

both

of

whom

spoke

against

pervasive instability, widespread corruption, and terrorist & counter-terrorist activities in

Most significant in this context is that the

the country and the frailty of the government

state fails to investigate, arrest and prosecute

to maintain law and order. The numerous

perpetrators

attacks on certain religious communities, for

abuses. In contrast they enjoy impunity to a

example the Shias including the Hazaras,

large extent and feel motivated to continue

during the last elections or the recent bomb

with attacks against religious minorities (cf.

plots against Christian churches (cf. Boone,

AHRC, 2012). In consequence, there is a

2013) stem from a lack of rule of law and a

tremendous increase in vigilantism and mob

failure of the government to provide adequate

violence, especially against the Christians

protection for prominent protagonists of

which are apparently the new target of

religious freedom. Here, the strategy of the

terrorism in Pakistan (cf. Boone, 2013; cf.

militant Islamists becomes crystal clear: to

Gregory, 2008).

eliminate the religious minorities or to force

There is another major causality why the

them out of the country to create a

state remains so restive is the growing

homogenous Muslim [Sunni] society. In order

religious

to continue their activities ‘undisturbed’, the

extremism in the country (cf. AI, 2012).

religious

Pakistan did not make any significant move

fundamentalists

are

not

only

8

of

violations

fundamentalism

and

and

societal

militant


in

overcoming

the

“pervasive

religious

expense of the human rights and religious

intolerance that undermined the freedom of

minorities, or the ignorance of the rapid grow

religious belief”. Furthermore, the reluctance

of Islamic fundamentalism as well as the role

of the government regarding the protection of

of the Pakistan’s government18 in these

religious minorities is creating an atmosphere

phenomena. Therefore, the GSP Plus Status

in which religious intolerance can grow

must serve as an instrument to pressure

because it is either tolerated or ignored (cf.

Islamabad in working towards a change of

HRCP, 2012; 2011). Consequently, the

unfortunate trajectories in order to build a

government’s failure or delay in addressing

functional democracy. This is not possible

religious hostility by societal actors fostered

without the unconditional respect of human

intolerance is paving the ground for even

rights including women’s rights, and the

more religious extremism and acts of

consequent

violence (cf. HRCP, 2012; 2011).

extremism. Or in the words of the head of European

eradication Parliament

of

religious

subcommittee

on

To sum up, there is without a doubt a need

Human Rights Ana Gomes, that Pakistan

that the EU enhances its political dialogue

needs “decisive actions to combat all forms

and interaction with the Pakistani leadership

of discrimination” (Gishkori/Rana, 2013).

beyond

aid

and

development

issues.

Especially with these Pakistanis who got

It is therefore important for the decision-

elected through free and fair polls. This will

makers in the EU to demonstrate the political

strengthen the civilians vis-à-vis to the top

will to implement the opportunities given by

echelon of the country’s powerful army. In

GSP Plus to them, foremost to use the option

this context, it will also mark a significant

of withdrawal in case of no improvements. In

counterpoint to the traditional US strategy of

other words, Brussels should not hesitate to

dealing with Pakistan mainly on military-to-

take away the benefits of GSP Plus if

military

open

Pakistan doesn’t meet the requirements. The

opportunities to influence political processes

case of Sri Lanka,19 which lost GSP Status

in Pakistan. However, the rapprochement

(temporarily)

between Pakistan and the EU should not be

conventions, should serve as a reminder for

realized at all costs, especially not at the

Pakistan’s elites that the EU is willing and

18

rights conventions in the context of the armed confrontation with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leading to their military defeat.

contacts

and

might

At the national as well as provincial levels. The EU suspended Sri Lanka’s GSP Plus Status for Sri Lanka after violations of the human 19

9

after

violations

of

its


able to react according the recommendations

blanche’ for financial and economic benefits.

of the strict monitoring mechanism of the implementation of GSP plus requirements.20

Bibliography:

Here, the EU must also take into account the

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likelihood that the ‘non-economic motivation’

Building in Pakistan, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance: Stockholm,

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anti-American

sentiments

[http://www.idea.int/resources/analysis/loader.cf

in

m?csmodule=security/getfile&pageid=37937].

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[http://www.adb.org/publications/asian-

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development-outlook-2013-update-governance-

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10


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Just Another Carte blanche? GSP Plus Status and Human Rights in Pakistan