WASHINGTON The United States Tuesday added Pakistan to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom, ramping up pressure on its treatment of minorities.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had designated Pakistan among “countries of particular concern” in a congressionally mandated annual report, meaning the US government was obliged to exert pressure to end freedom violations.
Pompeo a year earlier had placed Pakistan on a special watch list a step short of the designation in what had been seen as a US tactic to press Islamabad into reforms, reports Geo. Nine countries remained for another year on the list of Countries of Particular Concern China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. The United States removed one country from the list Uzbekistan but kept it on the watch list.
A statement from the US State Department said the countries were added to the list under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated “systematic, ongoing, [and] egregious violations of religious freedom”.
“In far too many places across the globe, individuals continue to face harassment, arrests, or even death for simply living their lives in accordance with their beliefs. The United States will not stand by as spectators in the face of such oppression,” the US Secretary of State said in the statement.
“These designations are aimed at improving the lives of individuals and the broader success of their societies. I recognise that several designated countries are working to improve their respect for religious freedom; I welcome such initiatives and look forward to continuing the dialogue,” he added. Pompeo also put on the watch list Russia, adding another item of contention to the relationship between the two powers.
Pakistan Rejects US Blacklisting Over Religious Freedom
Pakistan today rejected US’ decision to place it on its annual list of nations that infringe on religious freedom, calling the move “unilateral and politically motivated”.
“Pakistan rejects the US State Department’s unilateral and politically motivated pronouncement released in the context of its annual religious freedom report,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.
Yesterday, the Trump administration designated Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia and seven others as countries of particular concern for having engaged in or tolerated “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom.”
“Besides the clear biases reflected from these designations, there are serious questions on the credentials and impartiality of the self-proclaimed jury involved in this unwarranted exercise,” Pakistan’s statement added.
It further claimed that Pakistan was a multi-religious and pluralistic society where people of diverse faiths and denominations live together, including around 4 per cent of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs.
The statement added that Pakistan’s constitution ensures equal treatment of minorities without discrimination.
It also called for an honest self-introspection to know the causes of exponential rise in Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the US.
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