‘EU can contribute to protecting human rights in Pakistan’
KARACHI: The European Union has signed a five-year engagement plan with Pakistan that foresees interaction between the two on political, security and trade levels and human rights is the core component of this plan.
These thoughts were articulated by Antoine Madelin of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) on Sunday at the second day of a workshop on the ‘status of religious minorities’. The workshop was organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in collaboration with the FIDH.
In his presentation titled ‘leveraging human rights progress in Pakistan and how EU maybe of help’, he said: “The issue of human rights is the heart of all matters relating to EU treaties. Consequently, over the years this has resulted in a policy toolbox comprising public diplomacy in which EU leaders are urged to make statements on human rights progress in other countries, pass human rights-related resolution in the European Parliament. For instance the European Parliament has condemned the state of minorities in Pakistan. It also awarded the 2013 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and this led to a thorough discussion on the level of discrimination and intolerance faced by minorities and other groups of people in Pakistan.”
He said that another important element of the five-year engagement plan was the election monitoring and the deployment of observers under certain conditions, one of which was the abolition of separate list of Ahmadi voters. However, the list was not abolished in the previous election, but the EU went ahead and said in its report that the elections were free and fair in Pakistan.
Mr Madelin said that just because the EU had committed to policy guidelines, it did not mean that they would actually do it and that was where the civil society groups could pressurise the EU to implement their commitments.
Guidelines for freedom of religion have just been adopted by the EU in which they have committed themselves to keeping a tab on how freedom of religion is being followed around the world. “This has been inspired mainly by the UN’s language of the freedom of religion policy guideline that says that there is a freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief individually or in community with others, in public or private through worship, observance, practice and teaching.”
Mr Madelin suggested that all reports, recommendations, documented grievances should now be sent to the EU embassies because of their commitment to freedom of religion guideline compelling them to follow through.
Speaking about the immense volume of trade happening between the EU and Pakistan — the EU imports 4.6 billion euros worth of goods comprising textiles, clothing and leathers — he said that the EU had decided to put human rights in its trade agreements. Hence the EU could be asked to form a special committee whenever there was a serious human rights violation in Pakistan, the committee could be asked to suspend trade preferences such as Generalised Scheme of Preferences or GSP+ and that could have a major consequence for Pakistan. “In this way the EU can contribute to peace and better human rights in Pakistan.”
Earlier in the day, two working groups were formed — one on the role of the media and other on challenges in the field of education.
These groups after lively discussions presented their recommendations. The facilitator of the media group recommended the following: Pemra could be approached for amendments regarding hate speech on electronic media, for instance a time delayed response during a live coverage; code of ethics needed to be looked into with regards to the style books of newsrooms; there should be a media commission comprising advertisers and other stakeholders and complaints can be lodged with the commission; game shows and television plays should be made dealing with the subject in hand sensitively; motivating journalists through awards and fellowships for writing on human rights issues and having more diversity in newsrooms by hiring people of different faiths.
After hearing the above-mentioned recommendations human rights activist I. A. Rehman said: “There are several code of ethics; there is one by the PBC, FUJ, Pemra, etc. But they all are security-oriented. They should have provisions for promoting harmony with people of different faiths.”
The working group on challenges in the field of education recommended the following: teaching of ethics to every student; improvement of environment in higher educational institutions and food choices due to religious beliefs at hostels.