As Chair of the European Parliament's Monitoring Group for trade in South Asia, Sajjad, has welcomed the release of the European Commission's report on the current status of the GSP+ (Generalised Scheme of Preferences) that Pakistan subscribes to.
Speaking in Brussels, he acknowledged that progress had been made by Pakistan in many areas, including strengthening the institutional framework for human rights by establishing a National Commission for Human Rights and a series of other bodies.
However, Sajjad highlighted that there are still improvements to be made, recognising that human rights violations remain widespread in the country, despite some of the initiatives underway.
The report provides an overview of the GSP+, and the international conventions that Pakistan must ratify and effectively implement. It also analyses the effects on and utilisation of the scheme on the country.
Pakistan is subject to a continuous and structured monitoring process by the Commission, which involves an ongoing dialogue with beneficiary authorities based on a list of salient shortcomings identified in its implementation of the relevant conventions (the GSP+ "scorecard").
Speaking on the issue, Sajjad said:
"Clearly, the Commission's report is a welcome step in the right direction, but there is still a great deal of work to be done. The scorecard mechanism is put in place to ensure that genuine progress is made and as Chair of the monitoring group, it is my role to oversee that Pakistan takes the necessary steps to improve in these areas.
"Now we must look ahead to see where we can make the most advances and continue to work together to deliver the best opportunities for Pakistan and the EU."
Pakistan, as well as EU and international institutions and civil society organisations, will now have an opportunity to respond to the reports' findings. The monitoring process will continue and the European Commission in cooperation with the European External Action Service will follow up on the areas identified for improvement by the report.
In the meantime, the Commission will continue delivering practical support, including existing capacity-building projects in partnership with the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Ongoing projects include support of local administrations to put administrative structures in place, as well as support for civil society engagement for human and labour rights improvements.
Sajjad was instrumental in Pakistan gaining its coveted GSP+ trade status and last year was awarded the Sitara-i-Qaid-i-Azam - the highest national honour to non-Pakistanis for services that have helped the country - joining ranks with the British Queen and Nelson Mandela.
British Prime Minister, David Cameron - who he has worked closely with - has acknowledged his work previously, saying:
“Saj is a hardworking MEP who spearheaded tariff free access to the EU for Pakistan and has done much to promote relations between the UK, EU and Pakistan.
“I congratulate him on being awarded the Sitara-i-Quaid-i-Azam. You are a great ambassador for the party, the region and the United Kingdom.”
GSP+ is the EU trade policy instrument devised to encourage countries to comply with core international standards in the areas of human rights, labour rights, environmental protection and good governance.
Through this system Pakistan pay no duties when exporting a range of products to the EU. In return, they must have ratified 27 core international conventions – including the United Nations (UN) conventions on human rights and the conventions of the ILO on labour rights – and agree to cooperate in monitoring their implementation.