Islamabad: Pakistan needs a policy overhaul to restore its crisis-ridden economy which is drifting the Sri Lankan way to default.

However, the present political instability and turmoil would prove a forbidding impediment in moving forward toward fundamental structural reforms. It is now being acknowledged that economic development has become a scapegoat of a political slugfest, reported European Times.

There is a wide consensus among the Pak intelligentsia that Pakistan today needs to focus on self-reliant growth and capacity building to reap a comparative advantage in exports of its lead industrial products including textile and leather. It is also being realised in Pakistan that an economy can neither achieve sustained growth nor thrive on foreign aid.

However, Islamabad is relying more on lobbying rather than addressing the EU and US concerns in substance and essence, reported European Times.

Islamabad is now focusing on trade and making an all-out effort to retain the General System of Preferences (GSP) plus status provided by the EU post-2023 and regain GSP from the US which lapsed in 2020 by window dressing its compliance to requisite international conventions on labour and human rights.

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari while addressing the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry recently stated that economic diplomacy is a must for the economic stability of the country.

Islamabad is first trying to play a victim card by making a pretext that without GSP facilities, its local population including workers and the poor would be hurt.

Pakistan is also trying to make a point that its track record is better in compliance with international conventions as compared to the other GSP beneficiary countries, reported European Times.

But in reality, the recent high-handed suppression and even brutal killings in the name of blasphemy belies Pak's claims. Besides, instances of violence against women and minorities continue unabated. Islamabad is also facing a new compliance burden in the case of the new GSP plus framework that the EU would adopt from 2023.

Pakistan's dismal record in labour conditions, human rights, religious freedom and governance also act as bottlenecks for its attempt to secure GSP favour from the US.

Several local and international NGOs have continuously highlighted its dismal worker conditions, including bonded labour, child/women exploitation, and human trafficking, reported European Times.

Earlier, in an informal discussion with senior officials of the United States Trade Representatives (USTR), Pakistan Ambassador Masood Khan urged for advancing Pakistan's case on GSP. However, despite Pak lobbying, the US side was quite firm and particular on its expectations from Islamabad.

The country is under USTR's 'Watch List' and also under the scanner for poor record in the implementation of UN Conventions on Labour and other international conventions. Besides, the US is sceptical about weak IP protection and sanitary and phytosanitary standards as well as bio-diversity standards, reported European Times.

The European Commission recently found an increase in child labour and forced labour incidents in Pakistan. According to the Global Slavery Index, Pakistan is one of the top ten countries showing the highest prevalence of modern slavery.