On 25 June 2020, Imran Khan, Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, said in the Pakistani Parliament that “The Americans came into Abbottabad and killed Osama Bin Laden, martyred him.” Once again, Pakistan displays its mixed messages on Jihadi terrorism. In search of clarity, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Thierry Mariani raised questions to the European External Action Action Service (EEAS) on the meaning of Prime Minister Khan’s eulogy to the internationally listed terrorist.
On 13 July 2020, in a detailed question, French MEP Mariani of the Identity and Democracy Group (ID), highlighted to the Vice-President of the Commission/ High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy that Part I (vii) of the 2019 EU-Pakistan Strategic Engagement Plan aims at “Exploring avenues of mutual cooperation in the field of counter-terrorism and violent extremism, including within the framework of the UN, in the context of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Global Counter Terrorism Strategy (GCTS).” This has now been compromised by Imran Khan’s comments.
On 30 June 2020, the FATF stressed that Pakistan was still under increased surveillance as it had not implemented any reforms to curb the financing of terrorism through its financial circuits.
Posing a parliamentary question to the Vice-President of the Commission/ High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, MEP Mariani asked “does the VP/HR intend to take any immediate steps to stop Pakistan benefiting from the Special Incentive Arrangement for Sustainable Development and Good Governance (GSP+)?”. The parliamentarian also enquired “does the VP/HR plan to comment on Pakistan’s provocation concerning Islamic terrorism?”
In his closing, MEP Mariani asked: “does the VP/HR also plan to speak out on attacks on religious freedom in Pakistan?”
On 26 August 2020, Vice-President of the Commission/ High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, formally responded to MEP Mariani’s questions on behalf of the European Commission. In his answer, High Representative Borrell stated that “while counter-terrorism is not directly addressed by the 27 international conventions within the scope of the Special Incentive Arrangement for Sustainable Development and Good Governance (GSP+), regional peace and security are key priorities in EU-Pakistan bilateral relations” and also that “the EU-Pakistan Strategic Engagement Plan establishes an EU-Pakistan Security Dialogue to address security-related matters in a broad sense while maintaining the established specific consultations on counter-terrorism and non-proliferation and disarmament”.
The High Representative added that “the EU closely monitors Pakistan’s implementation of the Financial Action Task Force Action Plan and the conditions for Pakistan’s removal from the EU list of high-risk third countries having strategic deficiencies in their regime on anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing (AML/CTF), to which it was added in July 2018” and that “the topic of AML/CTF, as well as regional peace and security, are standing agenda items of the EU-Pakistan Political Dialogue, the next session of which is tentatively planned for autumn 2020”.
High Representative/ Vice President Borrell stated that “freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) is addressed through regular high-level political contacts and in GSP+ implementation”, highlighting that “FoRB was discussed in the Human Rights Sub-Group of the 10th EU-Pakistan Joint Commission in November 2019” and that “within the GSP+ monitoring process, the Commission sent a list of salient issues to Pakistan in June 2020 recalling the need to: (i) operationalise the new National Commission for Minorities; (ii) adopt and implement an interfaith harmony policy; and (iii) take effective measures against the misuse of blasphemy laws”.
Finally, Mr Borrell underlined that a “response from the government[of Pakistan] is expected by September 2020” and “a GSP+ monitoring mission to Pakistan is planned to take place as soon as conditions allow”.
Whilst High Representative/Vice President Borrell eluded to the failing of Pakistan regarding religious freedoms he made no comment on the statement of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan referencing Osama Bin Laden as a “martyr”. In a world challenged with the fight against terrorism, Europe’s silence on Pakistan’s State sponsored terrorism may also need to be questioned.
Photo Credit : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Pakistan