September 17th, 2021
The European Parliament has asked Pakistan to use its influence on the Taliban government in Kabul to ensure security and stability in the war-torn country, asking the European Union to reconsider the South Asian country’s preferential trade status upon Islamabad’s failure to do so.
This is the second time this year that the European Parliament has warned Islamabad of a review of Pakistan’s eligibility for GSP plus status.
In April, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) had adopted a resolution demanding Islamabad allow freedom for religious minorities and asked the EU to reconsider Pakistan’s GSP plus status.
In a resolution adopted by 536 votes in favour, 96 against and 50 abstentions on Thursday, MEPs deplored the violent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, calling for more humanitarian aid and a coordinated response to protect those most vulnerable.
Pakistan bears responsibility for security and stability in Afghanistan
The resolution stated that Pakistan’s leadership bears responsibility for security and stability in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover.
“Recalls that for many years Pakistan provided safe havens for Taliban members, as well as assistance to their security forces; instructs the EEAS to convey to Pakistan’s leadership that it bears responsibility for security and stability in Afghanistan and that it must use its influence on the Taliban to achieve those aims, and to consider if there is reason to immediately review Pakistan’s eligibility for GSP+ status and the benefits that come with it in the light of current events,” reads clause 46 of the resolution on the situation in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has not yet responded to the resolution yet. Foreign Office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar was contacted for comments on the significance of the warning about possible review of Pakistan’s GSP+ status but no response was received till filing of this story.
Speaking to Voicepk.net, former foreign office spokesperson Abdul Basit said the resolution did not bode well for Pakistan’s relationship with the European Union. “Coming soon after the April resolution, Pakistan cannot make a short shift of this second resolution warning of a review of GSP+ status,” Basit said.
France to exploit resolution against Pakistan
He said the exit of Britain from the European Union has weakened Pakistan’s support base in the European Parliament. “As Britain had a population of about two million Pakistan-origin citizens, a significant number of MEPs elected from Britain used to favour Pakistan in times of such resolutions,” he said, adding that support base has eroded with Britain’s exit from the EU.
Since the grant of GSP Plus in 2014, Pakistan’s exports to the European Union have enhanced from 4.54 billion euros in 2013 to 7.50 billion euros in 2020, registering an increase of 65 percent. In March 2020, the EU extended Pakistan’s GSP plus status till 2022. In August, Abdul Razak Dawood, advisor to Prime Minister on Commerce, said the government was trying for a two-year further extension in the preferential trade status, clarifying that there are no threats to Pakistan’s current GSP plus status.
Basit said France would likely use the resolution to build up pressure in revoking Pakistan’s preferential trade status. The loss of GSP plus status will also impact trade relations with Germany, Pakistan’s top trading partner in the EU, he added. He said Indian influence was fast encroaching upon any space left for Pakistan in the European Parliament.
The former senior diplomat also questioned whether Islamabad had that kind of influence with the Taliban leadership in Kabul as imagined in the text of the EU resolution, pointing out that Pakistan has yet to present holistic policy on Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover.
“Pakistan has oscillated between calls for a representative government and a sole Taliban government in Kabul,” Basit pointed out. In his views, Pakistan’s influence on Taliban leadership is limited and not as reminiscent of the previous Taliban government two decades ago.
Strategic advantage for Pakistan, China
According to the resolution, the withdrawal of US and international forces from Afghanistan is a collective failure of Western foreign and security policy and strategy and serious lessons must be drawn for the future. The MEPs also pointed out that the failure could be a strategic advantage for non-Western powers and neighbouring countries, notably Pakistan, as well as China and, to a lesser extent, for Russia.
“Expresses its deep frustration and concern at the ineffectiveness of the US, NATO, the EEAS and the European Union institutions as a whole over a 20-year period in maintaining and funding the Ghani government, in reality corrupt and alien to the people, as well as armed forces that have proven to be ineffective; expresses its concern at the fact that our collective failure in Afghanistan means a strategic advantage for non-Western powers and neighbouring countries, notably Pakistan, as well as China and, to a lesser extent, Russia, without their having provided significant support to and been involved in the development of Afghanistan; recalls that the Afghan authorities were embroiled in political infighting and systemic corruption and were not able to overcome weak governance,” reads the EU resolution.
Engagement with Taliban, but no official recognition
In a statement on the resolution on Afghanistan, the European Parliament acknowledged that operational engagement with the Taliban’s government was needed for logistical and humanitarian matters, in order to provide humanitarian assistance to civilians in need and safe passage for foreign nationals and Afghans willing to leave the country. However, the resolution stressed that conditions have not been met for a political recognition of de facto Taliban rulers who are currently destroying the achievements of the last twenty years.
Special visas for Afghan women
In the resolution, MEPs stressed that most Afghan refugees will seek protection in neighbouring countries. The EU should therefore support those countries and help create humanitarian corridors to provide food aid, water, sanitation, and medication . However, this cannot replace a fully-fledged European asylum and migration policy , which should focus on resettling those most at risk and most vulnerable, and should include a special visa programme for Afghan women seeking protection from the Taliban regime.
Parliament also urged member states to reassess current and recent asylum applications, including rejected applications, underlining that there must be no forced returns to Afghanistan under any circumstances. MEPs called again on the Commission to present a legislative proposal for humanitarian visas and on member states to share responsibility equally in offering protection.
Finally, MEPs stressed in the resolution that the EU needed to reinforce significantly its capacity to act autonomously and to strengthen its defense cooperation by building a genuine European Defense Union.