World

U.S. puts Pakistan on watch list for religious freedom violations

U.S. puts Pakistan on watch list for religious freedom violations

In accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, she said the secretary of state annually designates governments that have engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom as "Countries of Particular Concern".

An official statement from department spokesperson Heather Nauert also said the country had "re-designated Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan as Countries of Particular Concern on December 22, 2017".

Pakistan was placed on the Special Watch List for "severe violations", suggesting evidence that religious minorities are significantly more imperiled in that country, although the law gives Tillerson the "ultimate responsibility for interpreting the legal standard for SWL designation".

"Pakistan is firmly committed to the promotion and protection of human rights including the right of religious freedom, under its Constitution", it said.

"We will continue to work with the worldwide community with a view to ensuring that the internationally-agreed standards on religious freedom are observed in Pakistan and the broader region", he said.

Pakistan added to state department's watch list for "severe violations" in potential new blow to US-Pakistan relations.

Over the summer, the U.S. said it was withholding $255m in military assistance to Pakistan until the country increased efforts to crack down on internal "terrorist" groups.

President Trump has recently criticized Pakistan for giving "safe haven to terrorists".

The State Department is mandated by this law to designate CPC countries no later than 90 days after it releases its annual International Religious Freedom Report (another legacy of IRFA).

Christians, too, are often discriminated against in Pakistan, in various ways.

"However, I am troubled that Vietnam was again not designated this year".

"At least 40 people are now sentenced to death or are serving life sentences for blasphemy", they wrote.

Pakistan has faced global condemnation over its treatment of religious minorities, especially Christians, Ahmadi Muslims and Hindus. "Additionally, provincial textbooks with discriminatory content against minorities remain a significant concern". "The administration is right to make this a priority".

"Governments and business firms who are in sympathy with the people of Iran and their aspirations to national dignity and freedom can, for example, assist in thwarting censorship and the efforts of the Tehran regime to shut down social media platforms, such as WhatsApp, by which the Iranian people can communicate with one another and with foreign journalists freely", they wrote. "The U.S. should never shrink from calling out countries for such abuses", Royce said.


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