The government is facing stiff resistance over the controversial Pakistan Protection Ordinance (PPO) which, opposition parties believe, infringes on fundamental rights guaranteed in the 1973 Constitution. The European Union, which recently granted major trade concessions to Pakistan, says the proposed law should be in compliance with international human rights conventions.
“We fully support the kind of efforts that would eliminate terrorism and bring peace to Pakistan. We acknowledge and agree on the right of the government to pass such laws but with some perimeters,” said Nicolas Gibert-Morin, Head of Cabinet for the European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, in an exclusive interview with The Express Tribune.
In December last year, the European Parliament approved the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) Plus status for Pakistan and according to Morin, the EU, is looking forward to seeing Pakistan fulfil the promises it made to gain the duty-free access.
The GSP Plus is granted to those countries that ratify and implement international conventions relating to human and labour rights, environment and good governance. The EU has been closely watching Pakistan’s human rights record and also fiercely opposes the death penalty.
For Morin, this anti-terrorism legislation, the PPO, should be in full compliance with the international human rights conventions and if this does not happen, this would be a major concern for the commission. “We will express our concerns [even] if the bill is passed in parliament,” he explained.
Morin, along with his team, was in Lahore to participate in the South Asia Labour Conference, which continued from April 24 to 26.
The European Commission is ready to help Pakistan with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention, which, it says, is the basic requirement to continue with the GSP Plus status. The commission is extremely strict about the implementation of labour laws, eliminating bonded labour and child labour and promotion of union rights. However, the commission is now admitting the challenges that Pakistanis face in this category, especially after the 18th Amendment, are huge.
“This is a gradual process. We will begin a dialogue with the Pakistan government and other governments also which received this status and monitor their progress,” Morin explained.
“In Pakistan, the situation is even more complex as this subject has been devolved to the provinces and we are not sure if the provinces have the ability to implement or enforce the ILO Convention,” he added.
For monitoring the GSP Plus status, the commission has a scorecard for Pakistan that draws out the shortcomings and progress made during the two-year commitment.
Nevertheless, Morin commended the move, terming it a huge commitment on Pakistan’s part. “We are aware that working conditions here are dealt with a wide range of issues. But the Punjab chief minister has said he will allocate $500 million in the next budget for improvement of labour laws and to curb child labour, which we appreciate.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2014.