LAHORE: The federal ministry of human rights says steps taken to protect rights in Pakistan have demonstrated tangible progress but also admits that getting data about human rights in the country is challenging.

The statement has come during a meeting of the Treaty Implementation Cell (TIC) held early this month to take stock of steps taken by the federal and provincial governments since 2016 to comply with 27 UN Conventions mandatory for GSP (generalized system of preferences) which means non-reciprocal concessions under which developed countries allow duty-free or low-duty entry to imports from selected developing countries up to a certain limit or quota.

The GSP in Pakistani context means the UN conventions it is required to comply with to maintain its access to European Union markets, granted in recent years. And improving the state of human rights is one of the major conditions.

Meeting reviews steps taken by provinces to comply with UN conventions

According to the minutes of the meeting obtained by Dawn, a senior official of the human rights ministry informed the meeting, which was presided by Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali, that the establishment of commission on child rights was in progress. The related provincial departments as well as the district committees too were being set up for protection and strengthening human rights regime on sustainable basis. The ministry nevertheless faced real challenge in obtaining relevant data regarding human rights, he said.

He said Rs80 million were being considered for the National Action Plan on Human Rights and a task force had been made operational.

He said several meetings had been held with provinces on implementation of provisions pertaining to the Convention for Rights of Children and a working paper was being made on the crucial areas highlighted in meetings by members of the UN committee on the convention.

Mr Ashtar Ausaf Ali who is also the convener of the TIC, pointed out that the National Commission for Human Rights is an important institution of Pakistan and respect for its independence and criticism will improve human rights regime in the country, enhancing its image abroad.

But its secretary said only 20 per cent of its Rs40 million budget had so far been released. The (actual) demand was for higher allocations as the current budget was being spent on recurring costs leaving behind a meagre amount for awareness programmes.

An official of the ministry of commerce said the European Union was the destination of 33pc of Pakistan’s global exports. Pakistani products have complete duty free access to all 28 member states of the EU since Jan 1, 2014.

As a result of this access, Pakistan’s exports to EU had increased by 38.55pc in 2016 as compared to 2013. The duty-free access was helping Pakistani products to stay competitive to imports in EU from other countries.

He highlighted the immediate steps being taken by the government to enhance the chances of a favourable review of GSP by the EU Parliament in January 2018.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2017

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