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Civil Society Working Group Balochistan Welcomes EU’s awarded GSP plus Status

Quetta: The Civil Society Working Group (CSWG) Balochistan welcomes EU’s awarded GSP + Status to Pakistan for sustainable development and good governance. In this connection, governments’ efforts for the improvement of country’s economy and human rights reforms are appreciated. These comments were made by the leadership of Civil Society Working Group – Balochistan in a joint press conference at Quetta Press Club on Monday.

“The civil society believes that compliance to 27 international conventions, associated to GSP+ conditionalities, has a potential to transform entire lifecycle of citizens of Pakistan; it involves socioeconomic empowerment of women, accession of children’s rights, labour rights, civil liberties, fundamental freedoms, mainstreaming of minorities and ensured political participation.” They offered their full cooperation to maintain GSP+ status.

They said that EU’s periodic review on GSP+ was underway in January 2016 that was to share that CSWG Balochistan had submitted its preliminary report to the EU highlighting key human rights issues generally prevalent in Pakistan and particularly in Balochistan.

“The report has been well received and recognized by the EU Mission in Islamabad.” They claimed.

Civil society in realization to its responsibilities   highlighted the following  set of concerns regarding the status of rights and compliance to GSP+ treaties in Balochistan:

  • In response to the compliance of GSP+ obligations, unlike the other provinces, Balochistan is far behind in establishing none of the state bodies pertained to human rights, child rights and women has so far been established. Civil society is of the view that protection of human rights is impossible in absence of relevant state bodies.
  • There is a continued wave of multi-dimensional human rights violations in Balichistan, particularly the violations of civil and political rights, economic rights and civic entitlements associated to the right to life of citizens. Peoples’ multi layered and multi-dimensional deprivation has led to provocation of violence in province.
  • Over 1.7 million children in Balochistan are out of school compared to 1.3 million children enrolled in state-run schools reveals that percentage of the out of school children is higher. Out of the total 13,000 government schools, 7,000 are single room schools with just a single teacher.
  • In 2015, 75 cases of honour killing were reported in the province . In addition to it, 187 cases of violence against women were reported in Balochistan in 2014. According to the Report of Aurat Foundation cases of violation against women witnessed an increase of 24% in 2014 compared with previous year. Increasing rate of preventable maternal mortality is a symptom of larger social injustice and discrimination against women. The magnitude and scale of violence against women and honour killing is far higher, however, largely remained unreported. Social and cultural impediments together with lack of institutional arrangements continue to hamper women to be realized as equal citizens generally in Pakistan and in Blochistan, particularly.
  • Fundamental freedoms and civil and political rights of the people of Balochistan are constrained in Balochistan. Governments’ prevalent counter-violence strategy primarily undermines rights and freedoms of citizens.
  • Exploitation of the working class in Balochistan is persistent because of the lack of implementation on existing labour laws. Perhaps existing labour laws are obsolete and needed to be reviewed in accordance with the International Labour Standards. Lack of implementation on laws is due to the governance malpractices that benefit the privileged class. In Balochistan, there are very few opportunities of formal employment. Informal sector workers which are in majority (including agriculture workers, home based workers and even mines workers) are not covered under the law, thus are unprotected and have no access to entitlements.

“It is a matter of fact that above mentioned figures are indicative of worsened human rights situation in the province which is due to weak legislation and inadequate institutional arrangements.” They stressed

Civil Society Working Group Balochistan recommend,The government of Balochistan is required to immediately establish human rights bodies, bring legislative reforms, compliant to international human rights standards, to ensure protection of the rights of women, children, minorities and workers safeguarding of fundamental freedoms and liberties of common citizens.”

“The Government of Pakistan must speed up the implementation of rights, through legislation, institution-building and democratic engagement. Pakistan will only reap the fruits of democracy if the fundamental human rights, in addition to good governance, are accessible for citizens in their daily lives.”  They added

The Government of Pakistan is required to take steps for the withdrawal of reservations posed on international conventions including the ICCPR, ICESCR and CEDAW and bring policies and laws in conformity with international human rights framework. In addition to this, efficient administrative arrangements are required to ensure implementation on the laws. The federal government needs to take the lead in pursuing this objective, so that the provinces can follow suit.

Previous practices reveal that Pakistan had flexibly ratified numerous UN Treaties and ILO Conventions only for the sake of image building at the international level. The state exhibited a lax attitude both at compliance and reporting and got away with it because of the absence of binding restrictions on non-compliant countries.

The Civil Society Working Group (CSWG) on GSP+ , represents major civil society organisations of Balochistan, was established following a round-table on “Civil Society’s Role in GSP+ Monitoring and Compliance” organized by Democracy Reporting International (DRI) in April 2015, in Peshawar. The main objective of the group is to monitor the compliance on Pakistan’s international human rights commitments and engage with stakeholders, including the Government of Pakistan, on key reforms required to meet the GSP+ conditionality.

  Mir Behram Baloch

Published in The Balochistan Point on January 25, 2016

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