European Parliament may suspend all subsidies to Pakistan
Brussels, May 02: On the 30 April 2019, fifty-one (51) Members of the European Parliament issued a collective letter addressed to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan expressing their concerns, and seeking assurances that the persecution of religious minorities would cease immediately.
The letter highlighted that today’s Pakistan is far removed from being the country that its founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, had envisaged.
Jinnah had always insisted that Pakistan would be a Muslim majority state where people from all religions, whether Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Ahmadis or Shias, would be treated equally. Over the last seven decades, successive governments in Pakistan have contributed to implementing discriminatory systems that have resulted in political, economic and social persecution of religious minorities, which have encouraged acts of violence against them by radical Islamic groups.
In the letter, the Members of the European Parliament criticize Pakistan and its establishment for falsely accusing and targeting individuals under the blasphemy law.
They specifically cited the internationally condemned case of Asia Bibi, the Christian woman who had been falsely charged, harassed and sentenced to death row due to the country’s Blasphemy Laws.
The Members of the European Parliament urged Pakistan to take measures to dismantle the constitutional and institutional structures that have resulted in the purposeful targeting of religious minorities in the country.
“Should the violations of the International Covenant on Freedom of Religion continue, especially with regard to the persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan, the Members of the European Parliament having signed the letter, would be compelled to call on the European Commission to suspend all subsidies and trade preferences until the effective implementation of the Convention could be assured by the Government of Pakistan,” the letter warns.
The letter also expresses concern at the growing incidence of “forced conversion” of the women minority religious groups, who it says “remain particularly vulnerable to abuse”.
The letter citing a report by Movement for Solidarity and Peace in Pakistan says that it has been found that at least 1000 women belonging to Christian and Hindu communities, often minors, are kidnapped and forced to marry Muslim men every year.
“Over the last few years, religious extremist groups, often with the support of Pakistani state, have grown in influence, further generating religious prejudices against minorities. Concomitantly instances of attacks on minorities, their places of worship etc have also increased year upon year,” the letter says.
“As Members of European Parliament, we would wish to remind the Islamic Republic of Pakistan that oppression of religious minorities violates the United Nations treaty on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which is the foundation for the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a binding human rights agreement.”
The ICCPR is a key international human rights treaty that obligates countries that have ratified the treaty, to protect and preserve basic human rights. Pakistan ratified ICCPR in 2010.
The ICCPR Convention is also one of twenty-seven core conventions, set out as a prerequisite criteria for the Europen Union’s General Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+), of which Pakistan is a beneficiary, the letter to the Pakistan PM points out.
“The continued violation of this International Covenant, especially with regard to the persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan, will compel the Undersigned Members of the European Parliament to call on the European commission to suspend all subsidies and trade preferences until the effective implementation of the Convention can be assured by Pakistan,” the letter warns.
“We, therefore, urge the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to take measures to dismantle the constitutional and institutional structures that have resulted in the persecution of religious minorities in the country,” the letter signed by 51 Members of the European Parliament and addressed to the Pakistan Prime Minister reads.