The European Union has warned Pakistan that trade ties are directly dependent upon the outcome of Asia Bibi’s case. In this regard, Jan Figel, the special envoy of EU for the promotion of religious freedom around the world openly told the Pakistani officials that continuity of GSP plus status of Pakistan will be determined by release of Asia Bibi, who is on death row after being convicted of committing blasphemy.
Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi was accused of committing blasphemy by her co-workers back in 2009. Later on, in 2010, a court in district Nankana awarded her capital punishment, which was later challenged by her defense counsel. The decision was upheld by a two-member bench of Lahore High Court in 2014. Her appeal case is currently pending with the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Jan Figel communicated with the Pakistani during his visit to Pakistan. In a press release issued by the EU, says: “The EU communicator stressed the need to resolve Asia Bibi case because Italy, one of the EU strategic partners, is pushing hard to parallel the renewal of GSP plus status with the release of Asia Bibi, an internationally known Christian victim of false blasphemy charges languishing in the Pakistani prison for the last eight years. In her early session court hearings, she denied blasphemy accusations.
But the court was pressurized by local as well as national religious forces; as a result, Muhammad Naveed Iqbal, session judge of Sheikhupura Courts, announced capital punishment for Asia Bibi. Later, she lost her appeal in the Lahore High Court in 2014 which not only left her in despair but additionally High Court’s stay order against presidential pardon made her acquittal chances very slim. Her further appeal is pending in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.”
The press release elucidated that most of the EU countries are of a belief that the Apex Court of Pakistan is intentionally delaying hearing of Asia Bibi’s case owing to the pressure exerted by the political and religious parties. It was noted that the Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar has publicly urged the judges to conduct speedy trials of impending cases, yet he is not hearing the case of Asia Bibi.
Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) plus status allows duty-free access to the EU markets. Having this status, Pakistan was allowed 20 percent exports to EU markets at zero tariffs while another 70 percent e same markers at privileged rates. In case, EU does not renews Pakistan’s GSP plus status, it will be left with no other option but to borrow in order to stabilize it’s economy.