Islamabad, May 26 (PTI) Pakistan on Wednesday told the European Union that no armed or pressure group would be allowed to challenge and dictate the government policy, weeks after a radical Islamist party held violent protests in the country demanding expulsion of the French envoy.
'We have firmly moved against radical groups after the recent protests. I can assure you that no armed or pressure group is being allowed to challenge the writ of the state and dictate government policy,' Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told the Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) of the European Parliament (EP).
His address comes weeks after the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) held violent protests in Pakistan following which the party was banned in mid-April. The protests ended after Imran Khan-led government signed an agreement with the TLP and pledged to introduce a resolution in Parliament to expel the French ambassador and quash all criminal cases filed against the banned radical Islamist party.
Finally, a vague resolution was moved by a member of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf to discuss the issue but no debate was held in the parliament due to differences between the government and the opposition.
Apparently, the protests and resolution annoyed the EU and its parliament passed a resolution to end GSP Plus status for Pakistan which allows the country to sell its textile products at concessional tariffs.
The EU resolution also talked about blasphemy laws which provide for death sentence for anyone insulting the Prophet of Islam.
The Foreign Office in a statement said that Qureshi expressed disappointment at the adoption of resolution by the European Parliament on blasphemy laws and emphasised the importance of understanding the special feelings and reverence Muslims for the Prophet of Islam.
'Freedom of expression could not be used to hurt religious feelings of others and willful provocation and incitement to hatred and violence must be universally outlawed,” he said.
He urged the European Union to help combat the rising threat of xenophobia and Islamophobia.
The minister stressed that “xenophobia and Islamophobia were on the rise and Pakistan and the EU should work together for peaceful coexistence and interfaith and cultural harmony.' He said that the Pakistan-EU Strategic Engagement Plan (SEP) had ushered in a new phase in the partnership by providing a solid foundation and framework for multidimensional cooperation between the two sides.
Highlighting the enormous potential in further expanding Pakistan-EU ties in diverse spheres, he conveyed Pakistan’s readiness to continue to work for a productive and constructive partnership.
Qureshi underscored that the EU’s GSP Plus facility to Pakistan had been mutually beneficial and played an important role in growth of trade between the two sides.
He reaffirmed Pakistan's commitment towards effective implementation of GSP Plus related international Conventions and also appreciated EU’s support to Pakistan in the fight against COVID-19 Pandemic.
The Foreign Minister underscored that peace and stability in Afghanistan are paramount for realizing Pakistan’s vision of regional economic integration, saying Pakistan has played and continues to play a key role in facilitating the Afghan peace process.
Qureshi also raised the Kashmir issue and said the dispute was the single biggest obstacle in the way of building durable and lasting peace in South Asia.
He said the onus was on India to create an enabling environment as Pakistan was committed to the peaceful resolution of Kashmir.
India has told Pakistan that it desires normal neighbourly relations with Islamabad in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence. India has said the onus is on Pakistan to create an environment free of terror and hostility.
The Chair of AFET, MEP David McAllister, in his remarks highlighted the importance of Pakistan-EU relations and the Parliament’s interest in further strengthening this partnership.
Members of the AFET Committee and heads of delegations for relations with third countries and regions participated in the session.
The 71-member AFET Committee is one of the most prominent and influential Committees of the European Parliament. It oversees and provides guidance to the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy and plays an important role in matters related to human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as finalization of EU’s international agreements. PTI SH ZH ZH