KARACHI: Civil society, human rights and labour rights activists on Friday welcomed extension of the GSP-Plus facility to Pakistan for next two years and demanded the government to seriously take measures to implement the recommendations provided by the European Union (EU) for implementation of 27 international conventions required to be complaint under the scheme.

Addressing a joint press conference at the launch of Second Media Bulletin on Generalised System of Preference (GSP) – Plus, prepared by Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), at Karachi Press Club, the civil society leaders Karamat Ali (PILER), Habibuddin Junaidi (Sindh Labour Solidarity Committee), Mahnaz Rahman (Aurat Foundation), Saeed Balochi (Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum), Zahid Farooque (Urban Resource Centre) and Seema Maheshwari of Sindh Human Rights Defenders Network at Karachi Press Club they hoped that GSP Plus would benefit local industries.

“The government should realize the fact that we are not compliant to most of international conventions and this extension of GSP-Plus facility has provided us an opportunity to make serious efforts for improvement of human rights and labour rights situation,” said Karamat Ali. Pakistan has already ratified 27 international conventions regarding human rights, labour rights, environmental protection and good governance, but no serious measure has been taken to implement those conventions. It is our duty to make laws and institutions to implement these conventions, he added. In the review report EU has acknowledged some positive developments in Pakistan in making laws, but has also pointed out lack of implement of such laws, he said.

Karamat Ali quoted the European Union’s second report on two-year review on Pakistan, presented in the EU Parliament on January 19, 2018 and said the EU has indicated many lacks in implementation of the relevant laws. The EU has expressed serious concerns in the review report over deteriorating situation of compliance of human rights and International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions. Increased incidents of enforced disappearance, attacks on minorities, misuse of Blasphemy laws, curbs on free use of right to association and freedom of expression, lack of social security and occupation health and safety and fair trial in judicial system.

In the concluding section the EU report has pointed out that the Government has not taken effective actions to address the widespread use of torture. The application of death penalty and executions remain a grave concern, while a review of the crimes carrying death penalty would be a welcome first step in the right direction. While some actions have been taken regarding freedom of religion or belief, for example against hate speech, the blasphemy laws and related campaigns in social media, discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities continues to be a concern.

Regarding labour laws, Karamat Ali said that Sindh has made some serious measures as a large number labour laws have been made by Sindh Assembly. For the first time, Sindh government organized a tripartite labour conference, which is mandatory under ILO conventions. The provincial government of Sindh has recently released the first ever Labour Policy after devolution of powers under 18th Amendment in the Constitution.

“We demand all other provinces to hold tripartite labour conferences and announce Labour Policy,” he added. Karamat Ali urged the industrialists to cooperate with the labour and do not create hindrances in working of trade unions. Speaking on the occasion, Habibuddin Junaidi said that Sindh government has constituted a Labour Standing Committee after the Sindh Tripartite Labour Conference with equal representation from industries and labour. The government’s representation is only 20 percent. Junaidi said the Standing Committee in its first meeting has expressed serious concern on lower rate under Minimum Wage Law. “How can a family survive with a meagre amount of Rs. 15,000 per month fixed for unskilled workers,” he asked. In many industries, this minimum wage is also not implemented, he added.

Seema Maheshwari said enforced disappearances and issue of missing persons is a major area of concern for HR Defenders. The defenders must be protected. She said the government must ensure the right to fair trial and due process of law. In case there are any cases against any body and people can be arrested and tried in a court of law. Any unconstitutional and illegal method to detain citizens is a cause of concern. She demanded end of impunity to state officials.