Pakistan, EU reaffirm resolve to protect religious freedom

EU envoy Joesph Borrell expresses concern over misuse of Pakistan's blasphemy law


Our Correspondent December 08, 2021

ISLAMABAD:

Pakistan and the European Union (EU) reaffirmed on Wednesday their resolve to protect human rights as well as fundamental freedoms, focusing on freedom of religion, religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence, and rights of minorities.

The understanding was reached during a meeting between Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Vice-President of the European Commission (HR/VP) Josep Borrell during the 6th Round of the European Union-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, said a joint statement issued after the meeting.

During the meeting, FM Qureshi expressed concerns at the rising trends of Islamophobic acts, xenophobia and religious intolerance in the world and the need for common resolve to counter them.

The EU official, on the other hand, raised concerns over the death penalty and the misuse of Pakistan's blasphemy laws in the wake of a lynching of a Sri Lankan national in Sialkot over allegations of blasphemy.

However, Borrell appreciated Pakistan for passing the Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Bill and hoped that the Anti-Torture Bill and other human rights-related legislation would be adopted soon.

GSP-Plus status

Qureshi and Borrell also expressed a strong political commitment towards the GSP+ and the implementation of 27 international conventions on human rights, labour rights, protection of the environment and good governance that are linked to the trade treaty.

Furthermore, Qureshi and Borrell reviewed the ongoing cooperation between Pakistan and the EU based on the Strategic Engagement Plan.

Read Peshawar judge orders blasphemy probe against organisers of Women's Day march

“They agreed to further enhance EU-Pakistan mutual engagement, especially on security and regional cooperation,” the statement said, adding that they also agreed to hold the first meeting of the "new EU-Pakistan Security Dialogue with sub-groups on Non-proliferation and Disarmament, and Counter-terrorism in 2022,” the Foreign Office communique read.

The EU official also welcomed the progress made by Pakistan to implement the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) action plans to get off the grey list and the ongoing efforts to address the remaining actions.

The EU representative welcomed the continued cooperation with Pakistan on electoral matters. “High Representative Borrell informed Foreign Minister Qureshi about the upcoming follow-up visit of the EU Election Observation Mission to Pakistan of 2018,” the statement read.

Climate change

During the meeting, climate change issues and the importance of global action to counter the threat were also discussed.

The two envoys also discussed the importance of developed countries taking the lead in mobilising climate finance, noting the significant role of public and private funds, and technology to facilitate the transition.

According to the statement, Borrell welcomed Pakistan’s pronouncement, prior to the Glasgow conference, of its Nationally Determined Contribution to reaching the common climate objectives.

Afghanistan

Pakistan and EU envoys agreed on the importance of maintaining sustained engagement with Afghanistan to promote stability and countering narcotics as well as the threat of terrorism.

"They expressed grave concern at the potential for an economic collapse and significantly worsening humanitarian crisis and a fresh flow of refugees,” the statement said, adding that Afghanistan’s serious liquidity challenges were straining the legitimate banking services.

“They also agreed on the need for continuing urgent and unhindered humanitarian assistance and basic social services support to the Afghan people,” it added.

Read more EU hails Pakistan’s progress on GSP-related conventions

The envoys underscored the importance of “improving the socio-economic situation and preserving human rights, notably those of women and girls, and persons belonging to minorities,” the statement added.

Pakistan and EU envoys supported dialogue among the Afghan parties for achieving national reconciliation and underlined the importance of an inclusive and representative government, to enhance the prospects of security and stability.

The EU representative thanked Pakistan for its support in the evacuation of the EU nationals and the safe passage of people from Afghanistan.

Qureshi expressed Pakistan’s support for the EU’s inclusion in the regional political consultation mechanism on Afghanistan.

Rights violations in Kashmir

During the meeting, Qureshi reiterated Pakistan’s deep concerns about human rights violations by India in occupied Kashmir, and efforts to change the demography of the disputed territory in violation of UNSC resolutions.

Borrell underscored that the EU was monitoring the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir closely. He reiterated the need for restraint, de-escalation of tensions and resolution of the dispute through dialogue and constructive political and diplomatic engagement.

The EU envoy welcomed the agreement of February 2021 between India and Pakistan for observance of ceasefire understanding at the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir and to engage through the established mechanisms.

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