Pakistan is currently undergoing its last review and assessment of the GSP+ under the current system. The resulting EU report will reflect on the trajectory of Pakistan over the last 10 years under GSP+. It’s a final opportunity for Pakistan to demonstrate its efforts towards meeting the benchmarks to which it has committed itself.
For the new GSP+ system, which will be in force globally as of 2024, Pakistan, like any other countries seeking to continue benefiting from the preferential access to the EU market, will have to re-apply. As part of the re-application, beneficiary countries will have to submit a work-plan, spelling out how they intend to make further progress in implementing the relevant international conventions. To be successful, the work plan needs to be ambitious, but also realistic, based on the track record of the past and with a strong buy-in from relevant institutions, political actors and civil society.
The purpose of the “GSP+ week” is to give another, final push to make progress that could be reflected in the last EU report under the 2014-2023 GSP+ system. More importantly, we seek to launch a national debate among government, judiciary, civil society and other stakeholders in view of the work-plan that Pakistan will have to submit to maintain the benefits of GSP+ in the future.
The event is independently initiated and organised by Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) and Parliamentarians Commission for Human Rights (PCHR).
- Enactment of The Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention and Punishment) Act in 2022 was the culmination of years of effort to criminalise torture in Pakistan. The discussion will focus on the salient features of the Act and formulate strategies to ensure its effective implementation, in line with the UNCAT.
- While Pakistan has taken significant strides by passing legislation protecting the rights of women, full and effective implementation of these laws remain to be seen. The discussion will highlight barriers to implementation, and offer strategic recommendations with a view towards full compliance with the CEDAW.
- Significant policy and legislative efforts have been made in recent years to improve the situation of child rights in Pakistan. The discussion will highlight areas where continued reform is needed, and focus on devising strategies to ensure that the rights of children in Pakistan are upheld in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- It is crucial that labour rights stakeholders in Pakistan are fully informed of the obligations contained within ILO conventions and are committed to their implementation. The discussion brings together stakeholders from the business community, civil society and the Government of Pakistan in order to work towards aligning labour law and practices with international standards.
- The recent monsoon floods and devastating environmental catastrophes in Pakistan have highlighted the dire necessity of an improved environmental protection policy, in line with international conventions on climate change. The discussion will focus on the heightened need to strengthen institutions for the implementation of international conventions. such as the Paris Principles, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
- Under Pakistan’s National Security Policy (NSP) 2022, human and economic security are seen as essential in upholding and shaping the country’s hard security. The discussion will focus on the intrinsic link between international benchmarks on human rights under the GSP+ scheme and the changing approach towards national security in Pakistan, with a focus on strengthening implementation of the NSP.
- Pakistan’s use of capital punishment in recent years has seen positive developments including no executions since 2019, jurisprudential safeguards for the mentally ill and juveniles, and legislation limiting the number of capital crimes. The discussion will aim to devise a plan of action to ensure continued reform and fulfilment of Pakistan’s obligations to uphold the right to life, enshrined in Article 6 of the ICCPR.
Pakistan’s Implementation of the Convention Against Torture
Pakistan signed the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) in 2008 and ratified it in 2010 to strengthen its candidacy for GSP+ status. The UNCAT requires Pakistan to eliminate torture and other forms of inhumane treatment.1 As one of nine core UN human rights treaties, ratifying the UNCAT was imperative for Pakistan to receive the GSP+, which it was eventually granted in 2014. GSP+ status allows approximately 20 percent of Pakistani exports to enter the EU market at zero tariff and 70 percent at preferential rates.2 Pakistan’s GSP+ status is subject to strict requirements to uphold and implement international law. The Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention and Punishment) Act, 2022 (hereinafter, the Act) was passed in October 2022 and received presidential assent on November 1st 2022. It is imperative that this positive legislation reach its full potential in curbing the rampant practice of torture in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s Compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
Since becoming a beneficiary of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP+) scheme in 2014, the Government of Pakistan (GoP) has taken tangible legislative and institutional measures to improve compliance with international women’s standards. Its commitment to advancing women’s empowerment is reflected in key strategic-vision documents and the mainstreaming of gender in the planning and service delivery of key ministries. However, regressive social norms continue, in many cases, to thwart legal commitments made by Pakistan. The process, at the normative level, has failed to translate into tangible impact on the elimination of discrimination against women and the promotion of gender equality.
Pakistan’s Compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child
Pakistan currently stands at the crossroad of a multi-dimensional crisis; political tensions, environmental1 and security2 challenges coupled with a fumbling economy and soaring inflation3 have adversely impacted the population, especially children. This policy brief demonstrates that Pakistan has acted upon several recommendations of the Concluding Observations on the fifth periodic report of Pakistan, formulated by the Committee on the Rights of the Child4, especially with regards to improving the child protection legal framework. Moreover, some unprecedented steps were taken to enforce this legal framework and improve justice with children5. The operationalization of the National Commission on the Rights of the Child also stands for a historical measure.
Pakistan’s Compliance with ILO Conventions
Pakistan’s labour force is large and growing, with an estimated 70 million workers. The labour laws in Pakistan provide protections for workers and include, among others, minimum wage laws, health and safety regulations, and the right to form unions. However, enforcement of these laws can be weak in some parts of the country, particularly in the informal sector. Pakistan’s compliance with international labour conventions has witnessed significant progress with a number of laws and institutions set up at federal, provincial and district levels.
Pakistan’s Compliance with Conventions on Environmental Protection and Climate Change
Pakistan’s obligations under the European Union’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences+ (“Scheme”) offer the country an immense opportunity to build up its domestic capacity to further its environmental and climate change credentials in line with both international commitments as well as its domestic development goals. Doing so will enable the country to not only benefit from its direct participation and inclusion in the Scheme but will also help the country in the accomplishment of broader goals of sustainable development promoted by the EU as well as in line with the global Sustainable Development Goals (SGD) Agenda. In terms of the total value of preferential imports to the EU under the GSP+ Scheme, Pakistan is by far the largest beneficiary country availing nearly three-fourths of the Scheme by value. Importantly, under the Scheme the EU expects ownership and political commitment at all levels of government with the importance of environmental commitments increasingly more relevant given the impacts of climate change and the need to advance the global sustainable development agenda as part of the UN SDGs framework.
The GSP+ and Pakistan’s National Security Policy
Pakistan is awaiting the result of the ongoing review of its Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP+) status with the European Union. GSP+ is a special incentive arrangement which sets some benchmarks for sustainable development and good governance for developing countries in exchange for cutting its import duties to zero on more than two-thirds of the tariff lines of their exports to the EU states. The current regime for Pakistan was extended in March 2020 to 2022 and then again to December 2023. In case of a successful review, Pakistan will avail the GSP+ benefits under a new framework from 2024-2034. This policy brief argues that since the release of Pakistan’s National Security Policy on January 14, 2022, the country has set for itself a new direction that brings it closer to the EU benchmarks for sustainable development and good governance. While progress in certain areas will be faster than in others, the NSP’s focus on economic security and a citizen- centric approach seeks to broaden the definition of national security.
Pakistan’s Compliance with Article 6: The Right to Life (ICCPR)
On December 17, 2014, Pakistan lifted a seven-year moratorium on the death penalty in the wake of the tragic attack on Army Public School in Peshawar. Subsequently, Pakistan carried out 325 executions by December 2015: 88 in 2016, 66 in 2017, 15 in 2018, and 10 in 2019. Currently there are 3,226 prisoners on death row.1 Capital punishment continues to be prescribed for 32 crimes, including non-lethal offences which do not meet the ‘most serious crime’ threshold.2 Between 2017 and 2022, Pakistan has sentenced 1,337 defendants to death (4 death sentences per week), accounting for approximately 5% of all death sentences reported worldwide. As of 2022, every 20th person sentenced to death in the world is a Pakistani. Despite the fact that there is a high rate of Pakistan’s superior courts overturning death sentences passed by trial courts on appeal, Pakistan retains one of the largest death rows in the world.3