The human rights struggle
The human rights picture nationally is fragmented, rarely clear and the protection offered by a variety of pieces of legislation partial at best and absent at worst. The federal ministry of human rights is now saying that some steps forward in the protection of human rights have been taken, but the gathering of any data relating to human rights is extremely difficult. Why this matters is that compliance with human rights legislation is tied to the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) under which developed countries with which we trade allow duty-free or low-entry duty to a range of developing countries — Pakistan included.
Pakistan wants to maintain access to its largest trading partner — the European Union — thus it has a vested interest in improving its human rights record or so it might be assumed. A senior official of the human rights ministry now reports that progress is slow on virtually every front. The establishment of a commission on child rights was still ‘in progress’ — a euphemism for dead in the water. The data that the ministry needs to obtain to support and sustain the GSP is slow in coming. The money needed to fund the work of the ministry is equally slow in arriving, and that which has arrived is mostly allocated to recurring costs.
This is not some footnote; Pakistan has increased exports to the EU by 38.55 per cent in 2016 as compared to the 2013 figure. A substantial boost to our trade in a market we cannot afford to lose. Human rights awareness is low and there is a pittance allocated to raise awareness, a reality that will have been noted by external observers. The EU Parliament is going to be reviewing GSP relationships in January 2018; and it is in our best interests to present a favourable, indeed positive, face to the world in respect of human rights because there is hard cash attached to doing so.