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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Pakistan Rejects Designation as a Country of Particular Concern for Religious Freedom

Pakistan rejects US religious freedom designation, emphasizing pluralism and minority rights, defending against biased assessment, expressing concerns over India's exclusion, calling for constructive engagement, ongoing diplomatic dialogue with the US.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) in Pakistan expressed strong opposition on Monday to the United States State Department’s recent classification of the country as “a country of particular concern” for religious freedom. The US State Department had released its annual religious freedom watchlist, including several nations like Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and China. The MoFA condemned the designation, asserting it was based on a “biased and arbitrary assessment” that was “detached from ground realities.”

 

The Foreign Office Spokesperson, Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, defended Pakistan’s position, emphasizing the nation’s pluralistic character and rich tradition of interfaith harmony. The statement highlighted that Pakistan, in accordance with its constitution, had implemented extensive measures to promote religious freedom and safeguard minority rights. The spokesperson expressed deep dismay over the designation, stating that it did not align with the ground realities of Pakistan’s commitment to religious freedom.

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The MoFA statement also raised concerns about the exclusion of India from the list despite recommendations from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and international human rights constituencies. The spokesperson remarked that the omission raised serious questions about the credibility, transparency, and objectivity of the entire process. Pakistan urged a more constructive engagement and collective efforts, emphasizing that concerns about the designation were being conveyed to the US.

The State Department’s designation aimed to address severe violations of religious freedom, urging governments to combat attacks on religious minority communities, violence against places of worship, and repressive measures limiting peaceful expression. Despite the criticism faced by both Pakistan and India, the differing outcomes in their designations prompted a reiteration of Pakistan’s commitment to engaging the US in addressing contemporary challenges related to religious intolerance, xenophobia, and Islamophobia. The diplomatic dialogue between Pakistan and the US on these matters is ongoing.

Pakistan stressed the belief that challenges related to religious freedom are best addressed through constructive engagement and collective efforts based on mutual understanding and respect. The spokesperson highlighted Pakistan’s bilateral engagement with the US, reflecting a commitment to fostering a more nuanced and accurate understanding of religious freedom issues globally. The MoFA’s rejection of the US designation signifies ongoing diplomatic efforts to convey Pakistan’s perspective on religious freedom and minority rights.