Govt urged to improve human and labour rights

KARACHI: Human, women and labour rights’ activists on Wednesday called upon the government to take measures to improve human and labour rights situation by containing extra-judicial killings and fake police encounters and enforced disappearance of political workers and rights activists.

Addressing a joint press conference at Karachi Press Club, the rights’ activists said that the European Union under the second review of Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) – Plus had presented its second review report in the European Parliament, which would discuss it soon.

“This is a right time to stop violation of human rights,” said Karamat Ali, Executive Director of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER). Flanked by Habibuddin Junaidi, Convener of Sindh Labour Solidarity Committee, Asad Iqbal Butt of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Mahnaz Rahman, Resident Director of Aurat Foundation, Liaquat Sahi of Democratic Union of State Bank of Pakistan, Nasir Mansoor of National Trade Union Federation, Karamat Ali said that the European Union would soon start the discussion on review report of Pakistan.

In 2017 PILER’s representatives visited the EU headquarters in Brussels and lobbied with the EU parliamentarians and apprised them of the rights situation in Pakistan. These visits were not organized by Clean Clothes Campaign of the Europe. A separate delegation of the government of Pakistan had also visited Brussels led by Commerce Minister to brief the EU authorities about the compliance.

“We think there is a lot of room for improvement in human rights and labour rights situation in Pakistan, particularly, the last year was very worrisome for rights activists in which on one hand, the government started adopting coercive policies to undermine the non-government organizations and international NGOs working in Pakistan on the pretext to regulate them. On the other hand, the cases of enforced disappearances of civil society activists were intensified,” said Karamat Ali.

The 2018 review report has also identified this increase in violations of human rights in Pakistan. In the human rights section, the current report states: There are a number of areas where the situation remains unchanged or where there are worrying developments. Only limited action has been taken to address the long-standing issue of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. Likewise, the government has not taken effective action to address the widespread use of torture.

The application of the death penalty and executions remain a grave concern, while a review of the crimes carrying the death penalty would be a welcome step in the right direction. We thank you very much for attending the media briefing on Pakistan’s human rights and labour rights compliances under Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) –Plus facility by European Union (EU) for duty-free exports to European countries. As a condition of this facility, Pakistan had committed to ratify and take measures to implement 27 international conventions and covenants, which included seven core human rights and eight labour rights conventions/covenants of the United Nations. Pakistan’s exports of textile products have got benefit of this facility being provided to Pakistan since January 2014.

After every two years, the EU reviews the compliance situation in Pakistan and presented a report in the Parliament, where it is discussed. On January 19, 2018, second review report for Pakistan was presented in EU Parliament. The report in General is positive and is likely that the EU will continue this facility for Pakistan at least for next two years.

However, the report has identified many loopholes and shortcomings in compliance of many important international commitment. We believe that Pakistan’s economy which is facing many ups and downs in recent years, but it is greatly benefited from this facility.. According to EU statistics, Pakistan’s exports to EU increased by 21 percent from 2014 to 2016, mostly due to GSP Plus facility.

However, the pace for implementation of 27 Conventions remained slow during four years. We want the situation of compliance should be improved. The EU delegation during its review visit to Pakistan, also held meetings with the civil society and rights activists, who briefed them about the situation.

Regarding compliance of 8 Core Labour Standards of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the report has expressed reservations on delay in labour legislations by the provinces as labour subject is totally transferred from federal government to provinces after passage of 18th Amendment in Constitution. The pace for adoption of legislation and development of procedures and guidelines to implement the ILO fundamental conventions is slow.

“Implementation and enforcement of laws and regulations continue to be a problem, although some provinces have stepped up efforts to improve enforcement. Further efforts are needed to improve the labour inspection system and overall working conditions.”

The EU report further states: Federal and provincial authorities must continue and further strengthen their efforts, with a particular focus on some of the most problematic issues, notably to ensure the right of trade unions to register and operate, to enhance the functioning of the labour inspection, to improve occupational health and safety of workers, to eradicate bonded labour, and to eliminate the worst forms of child labour. Similarly, EU review report has provided its views on compliance of Conventions on environment and good governance. PILER has prepared a media bulletin on GSP+ and its compliance in Pakistan for first hand information about this facility. This is ready reference guide regarding institutional arrangements for compliance of GSP+ related international convention.