Published: Fri, January 05, 2018
Health Care | By Alberto Manning

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

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

Eritrea and Sudan, are the only two African nations recently re-designated by the United States as "countries of particular concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act for having engaged in or tolerated egregious violations of religious freedom. USCIRF had called for it to receive the designation, in part due to an anti-extremism law that has been used to label Jehovah's Witnesses as an extremist group, banning them from legally gathering or preaching in the country.

Pakistan was placed on the U.S. State Department's special watch list for "severe violations of religious freedom".

Chairman Dr. Tahirul Qadri on Friday said that nothing is more important than the integrity of Pakistan and said the country has given numerous sacrifices in the war on terror.

A country is labeled as a CPC after it engages in "systemic, ongoing, [and] egregious" violations of religious liberty.

On Monday, Trump reiterated USA concerns that Pakistan provides safe havens for militants, saying it had played US leaders for "fools".

"The protection of religious freedom is vital to peace, stability, and prosperity", the State Department said in their statement. "CPC designations can be made at any time, as conditions warrant", the spokesperson said, leaving the door option for Pakistan.

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The Trump administration has been critical of Pakistan for not doing more to combat terrorism and plans to announce stricter actions against it.

"We recognize that several designated countries are working to improve their respect for religious freedom; we welcome these initiatives and look forward to continued dialogue".

The Trump administration accused Pakistan of severe violations of religious freedom Thursday in a further sign of deteriorating relations.

A bipartisan group of six senators, including Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), asked Tillerson in October to make Pakistan a CPC, citing systematic religious oppression. "Additionally, provincial textbooks with discriminatory content against minorities remain a significant concern".

"However, I am troubled that Vietnam was again not designated this year", he said. "The re-designation of Burma as a country of particular concern is particularly appropriate, given the Burmese military's ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims". "The U.S. should never shrink from calling out countries for such abuses", Royce said.

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