Human rights activists urge to strengthen labour laws, end extrajudicial killings

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

Addressing a joint press conference at Karachi Press Club, the activists said that the European Union (EU) under the second review of Generalised System of Preferences (GSP)-Plus had presented its second review report in the European Parliament, which would be discussed in detail soon.

Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) Executive Director Karamat Ali said, “This is a right time to stop violation of human rights.”

“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, and 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,” a statement issued by the activists read.

“We thank you very much for attending the media briefing on Pakistan’s human rights and labour rights compliances under the GSP-Plus facility by the 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 the benefit of this facility being provided to Pakistan since January 2014,” the statement further said.

The EU reviews the compliance situation in Pakistan after every two years and presents a report to the European Parliament, where it is discussed.

On January 19, 2018, second review report for Pakistan was presented in European Parliament. The report, in general, is said to be positive and it is likely that the EU will continue with GSP-Plus status for   Pakistan for at least the next two years.

However, the report has identified many loopholes and shortcomings in compliance of many important international commitments. 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.

The activists said that the pace for implementation of 27 Conventions remained slow during the last four years. “We want the situation of compliance should be improved,” the activists said.

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.

Earlier in 2017, PILER representatives visited the EU headquarters in Brussels parliamentarians and apprised them of the rights situation in Pakistan. These visits were organized by Clean Clothes Campaign of 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

Regarding a compliance with eight of the Core Labour Standards Conventions of the International Labour Oganisation (ILO), the 2018 report of EU expressed reservations on the delay in labour legislation by the provinces as the subject was totally transferred from the federal government to provinces after the passage of 18th Amendment in Constitution.

“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,” the report concluded.

Sindh Labour Solidarity Committee Convener Habibuddin Junaidi, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan representative Asad Iqbal Butt, Aurat Foundation Resident Officer Mahnaz Rahman, Democratic Union of State Bank of Pakistan representative Liaquat Sahi and National Trade Union Federation representative Nasir Mansoor was also present on the occasion.