Human rights violations
The formation of a national network of civil society organizations on January 16, 2015 in Karachi augurs well for the critical cause of pursuing the implementation of Human Rights (HR) in the country. The conglomerate of these associations has resolved to play the role of a watchdog to monitor conforming with the conditions of the Generalised System of Preference (GSP) Plus extended by the European Union (EU) to Pakistan. The GSP is a scheme of preferential tariffs unilaterally extended with the objective of increasing the exports of developing nations. The EU confers this status on those developing countries that meet the basic criteria. For acquiring GSP Plus status, it is necessary that nations must ratify and implement 27 international conventions pertaining to human, labour rights, governance and development issues. Pakistan was granted GSP Plus status in January 2014 while 13 other states have already been enjoying the benefits of this scheme. Presently, Pakistani society offers a grim picture pertaining to the enforcement of HR. A sorry state of affairs exists related to conforming with international conventions and human rights violations are going on unchecked. There is a need of a vibrant force to act as a catalyst for safeguarding human rights. It is a good sign that civil society in Pakistan has taken the responsibility to play a tangible role to ensure implementation of human rights while using the economic leverage of GSP Plus status.
Unfortunately, the masses lack awareness of their rights. It is a kind of test and a big challenge for the government and civil society to make the people aware of their rights as per covenants that form the bedrock of the conditionalities attending GSP Plus status. There is an urgent need that parliament, state institutions and departments are persuaded to follow these rules for the promotion of a healthy society. Presently there is no system to check human rights violations in Pakistan. It is encouraging that the Sindh government has set up a Human Rights Commission. However, the formation of an independent National Human Rights Commission is still in the doldrums. The government should form a fully empowered HR Commission at the national level to remove the concerns of civil society. The terms of reference of the commission should be defined to create an empowered institution. As it is necessary for the GSP Plus facility, the government should make genuine efforts for continued progress towards fulfilling the provisions of the conventions and meet the undertakings on monitoring and implementation of human rights. Civil society’s role in GSP Plus monitoring compliance has become of paramount importance and it should be encouraged at all levels.