Pakistan’s need to generate more resources is closely tied to its ability to improve its image and standing in the international community. This was made clear during the strategic dialogue conducted with the EU in Islamabad on June 5. The EU team was led by its foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, while the Pakistani side was led by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. While dialogue was reportedly held in a cordial environment, things as they stood were made quite clear. The EU has said that Pakistan’s request for duty-free access for its goods to the markets of the powerful 27-member bloc of nations will only be met once the country will improve its human rights record, including the abolishment of the death penalty.
In other words, it is becoming clear that Pakistan’s image in the world is having an extremely adverse impact on its ability to forge ahead in various areas. A kind of ‘unsaid’ moratorium has been placed on the death penalty since 2008, which is when the PPP government first came to power and no one has been hanged since. Pakistan ranks among the few countries of the world to still retain the death penalty. The issue of doing away with it is a delicate matter, given religious sensibilities, but as human rights activists have suggested, it may be wise to at least initiate some kind of discussion on the matter so that progress can be made and a decision reached.
There are also other key human rights issues to tackle. Hina Rabbani Khar stated the matter had indeed come up during the dialogue, without offering too much detail. Pakistan’s inability to improve the plight of women, minorities and other vulnerable groups is not something that endears it to the world. We need to look more urgently at some means to improve the situation and, thereby, improve our standing in the eyes of the international world. The EU has made the need for this change to occur quite clear during the discussions in Islamabad and it would serve Pakistan well to pay heed to this advice.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 7th, 2012.
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