EU welcomes FATF progress, lauds legislation ensuring press freedom

ISLAMABAD: The European Union welcomed the progress Pakistan made to implement the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) agenda and also lauded the adoption of the Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Bill, 2020, by the parliament which later became an act with presidential approval.

The act proposes a legal and institutional framework for a conducive environment where journalists and media professionals can work with absolute freedom of expression.

A joint communiqué issued Wednesday at the conclusion of the sixth round of the European Union-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue said the former also welcomed the “ongoing efforts to address the remaining FATF actions”.

The meeting was co-chaired by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and European Commission Vice President Josep Borrell in Brussels on Tuesday.

The two sides reviewed the ongoing cooperation between Pakistan and the EU based on the Strategic Engagement Plan, said the statement shared by the Foreign Office.

Borrell and Qureshi reaffirmed their resolve to strengthen and protect human rights as well as fundamental freedoms, focussing on freedom of religion and belief, inter-faith harmony, religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence, and rights of minorities.

Qureshi also raised concerns at the rising trends of Islamophobia, xenophobia and religious intolerance in the Western countries and the need for common resolve to counter them.

Both sides expressed a strong political commitment towards the GSP+ status and the implementation of 27 international conventions on human rights, labour rights, protection of the environment and good governance that are linked to it.

For his part, Borrell expressed concerns about the death penalty and the abuse of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan.

He also expressed appreciation for the adoption of the Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Bill, 2020, by the Parliament and hoped the Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention and Punishment) Act, 2019 and other rights-related legislation that currently are with the parliament would also be adopted.

They also welcomed the continued cooperation with Pakistan on electoral matters.

Borrell informed Qureshi about the upcoming follow-up visit of the EU Election Observation Mission to Pakistan.

They also discussed the importance of decisive global action on climate adaptation and building climate resilience, and the importance of developed countries taking the lead in mobilising climate finance, noting the significant role of public and private funds, and technology to facilitate the transition.

Borrell welcomed Pakistan’s pronouncement, ahead of the COP26, of its Nationally Determined Contribution to reaching the climate objectives.

The two had an extensive exchange of views on the situation in Afghanistan and agreed on the importance of maintaining sustained engagement with Kabul to promote stability and countering narcotics as well as the threat of terrorism.

They expressed grave concern at the potential for an economic collapse and significantly worsening humanitarian crisis and a fresh flow of refugees.

The two sides acknowledged the liquidity challenges of Afghanistan which strain the legitimate banking services. They also agreed on the need for continuing urgent and unhindered humanitarian assistance and basic social services support to the Afghan people.

Borrell and Qureshi highlighted the importance of improving the socio-economic situation and preserving human rights, notably those of women and girls, and persons belonging to minorities.

They supported dialogue among the Afghan parties for achieving national reconciliation and underlined the importance of an inclusive and representative government, to enhance the prospects of security and stability.

Borrell thanked Pakistan for its support in evacuation of EU nationals and the safe passage of people from Afghanistan.

Foreign Minister Qureshi expressed Pakistan’s support for the EU’s inclusion in the regional political consultation mechanism on Afghanistan.

He also reiterated Pakistan’s deep concerns about rights violations committed by India in occupied Jammu and Kashmir and efforts to change the demography of the disputed region in violation of UNSC resolutions.

Borrell underscored that the EU is following the rights situation in Kashmir closely and restated the need for restraint, de-escalation of tensions and resolution of the dispute through dialogue and constructive political and diplomatic engagement.

He welcomed as an important step, in the interest of regional peace and stability, the agreement of February between India and Pakistan for observance of ceasefire understanding at the Line of Control (LoC) and to engage through the established mechanisms.

Borrell and Qureshi also exchanged views on other regional issues and reaffirmed their endeavour to promote peace and prosperity through concerted efforts.

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