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US puts Pakistan on special watch list for religious freedom violations

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has advocated designating Pakistan as a country of particular concern since 2002 over violations of religious freedom.

world Updated: Jan 04, 2018 22:19 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Washington
Pakistan,US State Department,violations of religious freedom
US President Donald Trump.(AP File Photo)

The US on Thursday put Pakistan on a “special watch list” for “severe violations” of religious freedom.

Secretary of state Rex Tillerson also “re-designated” Myanmar, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan as “countries of particular concern” for their handling of religious freedom.

“The secretary also placed Pakistan on a special watch list for severe violations of religious freedom,” state department spokesperson Heather Nauert said.

These designations, she said, “are aimed at improving the respect for religious freedom in these countries”.

Pakistan is already in the crosshairs of the Trump administration for not doing enough to combat terrorism.

“In far too many places around the globe, people continue to be persecuted, unjustly prosecuted, or imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief,” Nauert said in a statement,

“Today, a number of governments infringe upon individuals’ ability to adopt, change, or renounce their religion or belief, worship in accordance with their religion or beliefs, or be free from coercion to practice a particular religion or belief.”

President Donald Trump himself accused Pakistan of accepted a large amount of aid from the US — $33 billion in 15 years — and giving back only lies and deceit in return.

The administration has announced it will deny Pakistan assistance worth $255 million under foreign military financing. It has also said it will release a list of “specific actions” for Pakistan to take to “earn” the aid. More aid cuts are expected.

In accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, 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”.

In November, congressmen Randy Hultgren and James P McGovern, co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, had urged Tillerson to designate Pakistan as a country of particular concern as it has allegedly engaged in systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has advocated designating Pakistan as a country of particular concern since 2002.

(With inputs from agencies)

First Published: Jan 04, 2018 21:07 IST