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Sunday, January 29, 2023
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US keeps Pakistan on religious violators list

The United States has expanded its list of the world’s worst violators of religious freedom, which includes Pakistan.

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On Thursday, Islamabad criticised Washington’s designation of Pakistan as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) and lamented the omission of India from the list, calling it “removed from ground realities.”

Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, a spokesperson for the Foreign Office, said during her weekly briefing, “I would now want to voice Pakistan’s serious worry and regret over the US State Department’s unilateral and arbitrary classification of Pakistan as a “Country of Particular Concern (CPC)”.

The spokesperson emphasised that Pakistan has “a great legacy of inter-faith peace” and is a “multi-religious and multicultural nation.”

She continued by saying that the Constitution guarantees religious freedom and the protection of minorities’ rights, and that these rights are upheld through a variety of statutory, regulatory, and administrative means.

“We have also noted with deep concern and disappointment that India, the biggest violator of religious freedom, has once again not been included in the State Department’s designation list despite a clear recommendation by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF),” deplored the spokesperson.

New Delhi’s “conspicuous omission raises serious concerns about the credibility and transparency of the process,” according to Baloch. The “omission” also turns the list into a “subjective and biassed exercise,” she continued.

 

The spokesperson reminded Washington that the way in which New Delhi treats religious minorities has “been the subject of several hearings of the US Congress and reports of the UN high commissioner for human rights, the special procedure mandate holders of the UN Human Rights Council, and reputable international NGOs.”

The spokeswoman stated, “We have expressed our concerns to the US authorities on this designation.

Read More: India ready to cooperate with Pakistan on religious grounds?

‘Countries of concern’

In light of serious violations of the Religious Freedom Act, the US has classified Pakistan, China, Iran, and Russia as countries of particular concern, according to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s announcement last week.

Blinken claimed in a statement that the nations listed as being of great concern, which also include North Korea and Myanmar, either actively violated or tolerated religious freedom.

Vietnam, Algeria, the Comoros, and the Central African Republic were added to the watch list.

Several organisations were also listed as entities of particular concern, including the Wagner Outfit, a private paramilitary group with ties to the Kremlin that operates in Syria, Africa, and Ukraine. According to Blinken, the Wagner gang was singled out for its operations in the Central African Republic.

“Around the world, governments and non-state actors harass, threaten, jail, and even kill individuals on account of their beliefs,” Blinken said in the statement.

“The United States will not stand by in the face of these abuses.”

He continued by saying that Washington would be happy to meet with all nations to discuss specific processes for being taken off the lists.