South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Published in The Daily Times on Jan. 16 ::

A national network of civil society organizations for GSP Plus monitoring was formed at a roundtable on “Civil society’s role in GSP Plus monitoring compliance” jointly organized by Democracy Reporting International (DRI), Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER); and Sindh Human Rights Commission at a local hotel.

In his welcome address and a presentation on GSP Plus at the event, Zulfiqar Shah of DRI said that In January 2014, the European Union granted Pakistan GSP + status, which is currently granted to 13 developing countries. The GSP Plus scheme has allowed Pakistan tariff free exports to European markets. The economic benefits of GSP + are considered to be highly significant with textile, garments and leather goods exporting sectors to be the biggest beneficiary.

Speaking on the occasion Justice (Retd) Majida Razvi said that Sindh was the first province which, has established an independent Human Rights Commission, where as the National HR Commission is yet to be set up.

She asked the civil society to play its role in the implementation of all the international Conventions including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other GSP-Plus related Conventions.

Human rights activist Ms. Anis Haroon pointed out Human Rights violation is ruthlessly happening in Pakistan without any check. “We need to make civil society vibrant and for this purpose a critical mass has to be created in the society to push for implementation of these Conventions.”

Dr. Jaffar Ahmed, Director, Pakistan Study Centre, University of Karachi said that the GSP-Plus conditionalities have provided a room to Pakistani civil society to develop linkages with the European civil society to ensure implementation of the human rights Conventions in Pakistan.

Zulfiqar Halepoto of Forum for Conflict Resolution said Pakistan’s Constitution has many articles to ensure human rights for every citizens. Right to Life is part of the Constitution and recent execution of violation of right to life.

A senior trade unions tutor and member of ManchesterTrade Union Council said the GSP plus is also part of foreign policy of the European countries. The GSP+ facility requires the beneficiary countries to show continued progress against the conventions and satisfy the undertakings on monitoring and implementation made as part of the application to the scheme.

Senior trade union leader Habibuddin Junaidi said state’s attitude towards human rights is very negative. He said many institutions including parliament in Pakistan. Similarly, trade unions institution is also deteriorating. In such a situation, implementation of the human rights is a big challenge. He underlined the need to create an awareness regarding GSP Plus among the workers and trade union leaders as well.

Barrister Salahuddin, ex-President of Karachi Bar Association bar associations and bar council of the country can play effective role in human rights implementations. “We have seen the role of lawyers during lawyers’ movement in 2007.”

Khursheed Abbasi, General Secretary of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists said that journalists are also facing grave human rights violation. In 2014 about 40 journalists died in Pakistan while discharging their professional duties and total number of journalists who have lost their lives during few years is 122.

In a resolution, passed at the end of the roundtable the participants resolved to make the civil society’s group active to undertake tangible, focused and sustained initiatives to play a meaningful role as a watch dog, monitor violations of national laws, push for legislative reforms to bring laws in to conformity with international treaties and covenants conditional to the Generalized System of Preference Plus (GSP+) scheme.

It was also decided to form a committee at Sindh provincial level by inducting members from human rights organizations, women’s organizations, trade unions, environmental organizations, bar councils and the academia.

These proposed groups and forums were asked to develop human rights database (information on human rights institutions; texts, reviews and analyses of national laws, legislation, Constitution; international treaties and global mechanisms on human rights), generate fresh data through field research on violations of rights; adopt a broader, inclusive framework for human rights; disseminate information on the GSP Plus monitoring mechanism; induct resource persons, through institutional mechanism (probably through Sindh Commission of Human Rights) to analyze quantitative and qualitative data; liaise with federal and provincial governments, relevant ministries and the GSP Plus monitoring cells; develop combined, CSO reports on the status of implementation of 27 covenants, conventions and treaties and align CSO efforts and reports with International monitoring requirements and cycles such as EU monitoring on GSP Plus and UN monitoring systems.