Pakistan has refused to ratify the tough conditions put forth by the EU including the abolition of the death penalty for the extension of the new Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) status for 2024 due to “legal and political implications”. Pakistan has been a major recipient of the GSP+ scheme for the last seven years and the status is set to expire on December 31, 2023. Islamabad of course is going to want to renew this status given its significance to the country’s trade, and reports reveal that the government has decided to expedite engagement with the EU to seek some waiver regarding the ratification of new protocols.
According to reports, the EU Parliament had proposed additional conventions for the new GSP+ scheme (2024-34) which included the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) – Individual complaints against State party in ICC – and First Optional Protocol to the International Convention Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) – Individual complaints against State party in ICCPR-UNHRC. Additionally, there is a second optional protocol to the ICCPR which bounds a country to abolish the death penalty. Pakistan has not ratified any of these conditions.
This is of course a complex matter as there are multiple sides to it. Human rights are most definitely an area where the country needs to work on more concertedly. The death penalty is a contentious matter and the attorney general’s office is perhaps right in saying that ratification carries multiple legal and political implications. Also, changing norms and laws for international conventions is not the best approach. An issue such as the death penalty is linked is also linked to society’s broader understanding and attitudes toward such matters. Therefore, more indigenous and organic efforts toward reform and education produce a more stable and better effect.
However, there are also cases where adopting international conventions has proved to be lucrative; Saudi Arabia is one example. The country must now decide what path it wants to choose. Focusing on trade and improving the country’s human rights record must be a goal regardless of the EU’s demands. With regards to the death penalty, for a long time, a moratorium has sufficed. Perhaps the government will be able to convince the EU to continue this trend and secure a waiver.