On April 30th, the European Parliament has adopted a resolution calling for a review of the GSP+ status granted to Pakistan in view of an “alarming” increase in the use of blasphemy accusations in the country as well as rising number of online and offline attacks on journalists and civil society organisations, it emerged on Friday.
The resolution also calls on the Government of Pakistan to “unequivocally condemn” incitement to violence and discrimination against religious minorities in the country.
Here are some points of the resolution concerning religious minorities :
“4. Is concerned at the continued abuse of blasphemy laws in Pakistan, which is exacerbating existing religious divides and thus fomenting a climate of religious intolerance, violence and discrimination; stresses that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are incompatible with international human rights laws and are increasingly used to target vulnerable minority groups in the country, including Shias, Ahmadis, Hindus and Christians; calls, therefore, on the Government of Pakistan to review and ultimately abolish these laws and their application; calls for judges, defence counsel and defence witnesses to be protected in all so-called blasphemy cases;
- Calls on the Government of Pakistan to unequivocally condemn incitement to violence and discrimination against religions minorities in the country; calls on the Government of Pakistan to put in place effective, procedural and institutional safeguards at the investigative, prosecutorial and judicial levels to prevent the abuse of the blasphemy laws pending their abolition; deplores the continuing discrimination against and violence towards religious minorities in Pakistan, including Christians, Ahmadiyya Muslims, Shias and Hindus; recalls the 2014 mob attack on the Ahmadi community in Gujranwala following allegations of blasphemy against its member Aqib Saleem, who was acquitted in court, that resulted in the deaths of three members of the community, including two children; notes that it has been made a requirement that no police officer below the level of police superintendent may investigate charges before registering a case;
- Whereas the situation in Pakistan continued to deteriorate in 2020 as the government systematically enforced blasphemy laws and failed to protect religious minorities from abuses by non-state actors, with a sharp rise in targeted killings, blasphemy cases, forced conversions, and hate speech against religious minorities including Ahmadis, Shi’a Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Sikhs; whereas abduction, forced conversion to Islam, rape and forced marriage remained an imminent threat for religious minority women and children in 2020, particularly those from the Hindu and Christian faiths;”
The parliamentarians in this resolution also request the intervention of the EEAS “to immediately review Pakistan’s eligibility for GSP+ status in the light of current events and whether there is sufficient reason to initiate a procedure for the temporary withdrawal of this status and the benefits that come with it, and to report to the European Parliament on this matter as soon as possible;”
And to the “EEAS and the Commission to use all the tools at their disposal, including those provided for by the EU Guidelines for the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Religion or Belief, to assist religious communities and pressurise the Pakistani Government to do more to protect religious minorities”
And they also “Urges the EEAS and the Member States to continue to support Pakistan with judicial reform and capacity-building to ensure that lower courts are equipped to promptly hold trials for those detained and to dismiss blasphemy cases that are not supported by sufficient reliable evidence;”
The resolution also encourages and welcomes initiatives in favor of interreligious dialogue, human rights and assistance to victims of religious and gender-based violence.