Terrorism, Islamophobia dominate EU-Pakistan strategic dialogue

The European Union has expressed concerns over the “abuse of the blasphemy act” and the use of the death penalty in Pakistan in the 5th round of the EU-Pakistan strategic dialogue held via videoconference on Tuesday

Nov 07, 2020
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The European Union has expressed concerns over the “abuse of the blasphemy act” and the use of the death penalty in Pakistan in the 5th round of the EU-Pakistan strategic dialogue held via videoconference on Tuesday. The dialogue was part of the EU-Pakistan Strategic Engagement Plan signed in 2019. In 2021, both parties will hold the first meeting of the EU-Pakistan Security Dialogue.  
In the dialogue that was held between Joseph Borell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the EU, and Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, issues like recent Islamist terrorist attacks in European countries, Islamophobia in Europe, and the regional situation in Afghanistan, were also discussed among various other issues. 

During the meeting, Pakistan also raised the Kashmir issue, to which the EU responded they were monitoring the situation and also advised restraint, need for de-escalation, and resolution through “dialogue and diplomatic engagement.” 

Amid the mounting criticism that Europe has been facing, especially from Muslim nations, in recent times regarding its treatment of Islam and the Muslim population, Joseph Borell said, “I expressed my deep concern especially about the disinformation about the situation of Islam and Muslims in Europe that we have observed in many parts of the world, including Pakistan,” in a statement released by the European Union. 

Qureshi underlined the “resurgence of Islamophobic acts” in Europe and said these actions are hurting Muslims, especially Pakistan. 

Defending the European position on the issue, Borell said, individual rights and freedom are “central” to the European society based on secular values- a model, he said, often “difficult” to be understood in societies whose values differ from us. 

“We agreed to condemn all violence and the killing of innocent people and reaffirmed our joint determination to defend human rights and promote tolerance between religious faiths,” the statement reads. 

Further, on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)'s continued greylisting of Pakistan, the EU took note of “significant progress” Pakistan made in 21 out of the 27 points of the Pakistan Action Plan. “At the last review of the FATF, the EU had advocated for a positive tone of the statement on Pakistan,” reads the statement. 

Appreciating the progress that the Afghan conflict saw in the last two years, both EU and Pakistan extended support for “an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” peace process, but also underscored “difficulty of the task remaining” and “obstacles” which are yet to overcome. 
 
Amid the precarious economic situation, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic in Pakistan, the EU strongly suggested that Pakistan- a country with the highest ratios of external debt to trade- should be “fully benefitted” by the Debt Service Suspension Initiative of the G20. Earlier, the European Union assisted Pakistan with €150 million to mitigate COVID-19 effects. 

Trade relations were also discussed in the meeting as the EU is the second-biggest trading partner for Pakistan. Currently, 35 percent of the country’s export goes to the EU, and the majority of the exports benefits from the EU’s General Preferential Scheme designed to support developing nations in promoting local jobs and poverty alleviation. 

Prevailing situations like the shared threat of terrorism, challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and rising US-China rivalry made, the EU acknowledged the important role of the continued EU-Pakistan engagement that would be crucial for stability in the South Asian region.  

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