BRUSSELS: European Union might review its economic concessions given to Pakistan over the deteriorating human rights situation, including the wave of abductions of activists reportedly by the security agencies and discriminatory laws against minorities. European Union has warned Pakistan that there can be no place for enforced disappearances and secret detention in the country and government would have to criminalise the practice while also amending the discriminatory laws against minorities under the international law and commitments. Global human rights organizations including Amnesty International had protested against the abduction of peace activist Raza Khan, demanding state authorities to produce the abducted activists from across the country. The rights organizations have also expressed concerns over Pakistani authorities issuing notices to at least 13 International Non Government Organisations (INGOs) to stop their relief work inside the country. EU determines that in 2017 alone, the INGO sector as a whole reached 34 million people in Pakistan with humanitarian relief and development assistance. “The action taken by the Government of Pakistan, if not reversed, would shrink the space of civil society in the country, to the detriment of the whole population. We therefore expect the Government of Pakistan to swiftly review this situation,” the spokesperson added. Pakistan is given special economic relief by the EU under their Generalised Scheme of Preference Plus (GSP+) programme with the promise of improving democracy and good governance in the country. In an exclusive talk to Daily Times over the recent wave of apparent forced disappearances including of the peace activist Raza Khan from Lahore on December 2, 2017, EU spokesperson stated on Tuesday that The Commission, together with the European External Action Service (EEAS), is continuously monitoring Pakistan’s effective implementation of the core international human rights conventions. The spokesperson added that EU has already conveyed their concerns about insufficient progress in specific areas, such as the discrimination against minorities and, and called for greater efforts by Pakistan to address such shortcomings during the 8th Generalised Scheme of Preference Plus (GSP+) EU-Pakistan Joint Commission held in Brussels on 9-11 October 2017. During the last GSP+ monitoring mission to Pakistan (30 October to 4 November 2016), the EU had expressed similar concerns over human rights situation in Pakistan too. “The European Union takes the issue of forced disappearances in Pakistan extremely seriously and raises this with the Pakistani authorities at all levels, including at the regular meeting of the EU-Pakistan Governance and Human Rights format and the EU-Pakistan Joint Commission,” the spokesperson stated, adding that there can be no place for enforced disappearances and secret detention. The EU spokesperson added that as part of its GSP+ commitments, Pakistan has committed to take concrete actions to ensure progress on the ground in implementing the 27 international conventions, including criminalising enforced disappearances. “We expect these commitments to be followed up by concrete action,” EU spokesperson added. The spokesperson demanded the government that all allegations of enforced disappearances must be investigated and all perpetrators prosecuted and brought to justice. The EU also wants Pakistan that in this respect, the authority and the capacity – both financial and in terms of personnel – of the Commission of Inquiry on Forced Disappearances must be strengthened by the Pakistani authorities so that the Commission can function effectively. “We are aware that 13 INGOs have received letters from the Pakistani authorities rejecting their registration requests. These letters provide no explanation as to why their requests for registration have been rejected. There is also a discrepancy between the time frames to close operations (60 days) and to appeal (90 days)” the spokesperson asserted. The spokesperson added that the EU is, through its Delegation in Islamabad, in touch both with the INGOs affected and with the Pakistani authorities to ascertain further information and explanations. “The European Union strongly supports the indispensable work of NGOs and INGOs in Pakistan and around the world as independent voices; contributors to democracy, the rule of law, and human rights; and valuable critics that strengthen societies,” EU spokesperson added. Published in Daily Times, December 21st 2017.