The Leader of Europe's 'Last Dictatorship' Is Facing an Unprecedented Challenge. Here's What It Could Mean for Belarus

Europe’s longest serving leader Alexander Lukashenko has long worked hard to seem invincible. He has dominated past elections that the U.S. has deemed neither free nor fair and brokered no dissent and suppressed protests. Now, he is facing an unprecedented challenge as he runs for a sixth term as president of Belarus in elections on August 9. A former teacher and political novice, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, has emerged as his main rival, pledging to topple Lukashenko’s regime and restore democracy.
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Pakistan: The cost of the death penalty

ISLAMABAD: Any move by the government to lift the moratorium on the death penalty is not likely to adversely affect Pakistan’s nine-month-old duty free access to European markets, as the Generalised System of Preference plus (GSP plus) is not conditioned on capital punishment.

The ban on death penalty is not legally binding on Pakistan, according to those involved in negotiations on GSP plus and officials close to European Union diplomats. But its lifting will be treated as a major setback to Pakistan’s relations with the bloc of 27 nations, they added.

From January this year, the EU granted duty-free access to Pakistan for a period of 10 years, but this is subject to periodic reviews that will determine whether Pakistan is making progress on 27 conventions of the United Nations pertaining to human, labour and gender rights and freedom of expression.

The major review will take place after three years and will determine whether the status can be continued for seven more years. “The EU may discuss the resumption of capital punishment in the review but legally Pakistan is not bound to maintain the status quo,” said Mirza Ikhtiar Beg, former textile adviser to prime minister during the PPP’s tenure.

Beg, who himself is a textile tycoon, played a key role in the extension of the moratorium on death penalty after the PML-N government showed its intentions to lift it in August last year. At that time, the EU was considering Pakistan’s request for the GSP plus status.

After approval of the GSP plus status in December last year, both the EU and the Ministry of Commerce maintained that the continuation of duty-free access was in no way linked with the death penalty.

Former secretary Commerce Qasim Niaz said at the time that there was no mention of the death penalty in 27 international conventions that the country signed or in the GSP plus documents. However, the EU will gauge the country’s performance and prepare a baseline and track improvement on human rights, women’s rights, labour rights, and freedom of expression through international non-governmental organisations.

The EU’s Ambassador to Pakistan Lars Wigemark had also said the moratorium on the death penalty was not directly linked with the GSP plus status. At the same time, he described the moratorium on the death penalty as “a very positive achievement”. European Union officials indicated last year that if Pakistan resumed executions, it could jeopardise a highly prized trade deal with the bloc. An EU rights delegation warned it would be seen as a “major setback” if Pakistan restarted hangings.

Source: The Express Tribune, Sept. 30, 2014

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