Civil society leaders urge govt to improve human rights conditions


PESHAWAR: Democracy Reporting International (DRI) organized a Multi-stakeholders Forum “GSP+ in Pakistan: Towards a Coordinated Implementation Strategy” here on Thursday. The forum was last in a series of four events organized in all provinces. It brought together broad range of stakeholders including civil society, officials of relevant government departments, business community and law makers to discuss, debate and identify their respective roles in advocating for and monitoring compliance of commitments made under GSP+ arrangements with special focus on KP.

Imtiaz Shahid Qureshi, Minister for Law, Parliamentary affairs and Human Rights Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in his key note speech announced that his government is fully committed to the respect to human rights and is making all out efforts to comply with international standards.

Within a short period of two years, KP Assembly has passed 74 laws which include Right to Information Law and Human Rights Act, he said. All these laws are compliant with international standards and conventions ratified by Pakistan.

Qureshi said that his government had established a directorate of human rights in Peshawar and district level offices in 14 districts which will provide easy access of remedy to those whose rights are violated.

He was of the view that GSP+ is a big opportunity and Pakistan must not lose this just because it cannot ensure implementation on human rights and labour rights conventions. These rights are already part of our constitution.

He said that the government had significantly improved law and order situation in the province and was now focusing on socio economic sector.

Zulfiqar Shah, Team Leader at DRI in his opening presentation highlighted the importance of GSP+ for Pakistan both in terms of a trade incentive scheme which results in enhanced economic benefits and in terms of an opportunity to improve human rights situation in the country.

GSP+ status is an opportunity to strengthen democratic governance and improve state of human rights in the country. It’s a win win situation, he added. GSP+ status requires Pakistan to effectively implement 27 international conventions. Improved compliance on these conventions would help in Pakistan’s image building at international level.

“Though Pakistan had ratified all conventions coming under GSP+ binding, it was lagging behind in reporting on key treaties such as ICCPR, CEDAW, CERD and CAT. GSP+ agreement requires Pakistan to comply with reporting requirements which would certainly need arrangements on ground to improve the situation and implement required clauses of these conventions,” he said.

Ms. Neelam Turu, Chairperson of KP Commission on Status of Women in his speech said that women all over the Pakistan and particularly in KP are marginalized and lot of efforts are required to bring them in par with other segments of the society. KP government is making all our efforts to uplift the status of women in the province, she added.

She informed that the KP government had approved a policy framework on women empowerment which will help in improve the socio economic status of women in the province. She suggested that the government should do a gender review of all policies to ensure that these are gender sensitive and in compliance with international commitments. She appealed the European Union to continue GSP+ for Pakistan as it will help in economic growth and improvement in human rights in the country.

Irfanullah, director Labour KP said that the provincial government had reformed all labour laws and which are now compliant to ILO core standards. He said that the provincial labour department is fully cognizant to GSP+ requirements and efforts are being made to ensure compliance.

Iqbal Afridi, representing KP Chamber of Commerce and Industry thanked the EU for granting GSP+ status to Pakistan. However, he urged the government of Pakistan to provide level playing field to business community in all over the country to benefit from this scheme. So far benefits are being reaped only by business community in Punjab only, he complained.

Ms. Rakhshanda Naz, a civil society activist highlighted the women rights issues in the province. In her view violation of basic rights of women such as voting rights is a major problem in the province and need immediate attention. It’s important to pay serious attention to women rights in KP if we wish to comply on CEDAW, she added.

Other speakers of the forum including government official and business community representatives said that the compliance on 27 conventions is a big challenge which would require coordinated efforts. Speakers were in support of the continuation of GSP+ status to Pakistan which carries dual benefit of economic growth and improvement in citizens’ lives.

The forum was informed that EU will regularly review Pakistan’s performance against compliance on international conventions and first review report will be presented in European Parliament in January 2016. Speakers urged the government to implement required reforms well before the review which will untimely help in favour of Pakistan.