USA places Pakistan on watch list for 'severe' violations of religious freedom

USA places Pakistan on watch list for 'severe' violations of religious freedom

"The designations are aimed at improving respect for religious freedom in these countries", she added.

The U.S. State Department has singled out Pakistan, Iran, and three Central Asian countries for policies violating religious freedom.

Reacting to the US' decision, the Foreign Office said, "this placement on special watch list is a new categorisation and we would be seeking clarification from the United States regarding its rationale and implications".

Of great interest to activists, scholars, parliamentarians and citizens of Pakistan and the United States is the addition of Pakistan on a Special Watch List for severe violations of religious freedom.

The United States annually designates countries of particular concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.

Pakistan was placed on the Special Watch List for "severe violations", suggesting evidence that religious minorities are significantly more imperiled in that country, although the law gives Tillerson the "ultimate responsibility for interpreting the legal standard for SWL designation".

President Donald Trump said on Monday the USA had "foolishly" given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid in the last 15 years and had received nothing in return but "lies and deceit".

Over the summer, the USA said it was withholding $255m in military assistance to Pakistan until the country increased efforts to crack down on internal "terrorist" groups.

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The announcement came as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson chose to re-designate about 10 countries as "Countries of Particular Concern". "The U.S. should never shrink from calling out countries for such abuses".

"We believe that the protection of religious freedom is vital to peace, stability, and prosperity". It is encouraging that the State Department did not allow Sudan's favorable, sanction-lifted condition to color its view of the regime as a persecutor of religious minorities.

The commission had recommended that Russia, Vietnam, Syria, Nigeria and the Central African Republic be added, adding that Pakistan should have been included on the list of CPCs, rather than the lower designation of "Special Watch List".

Late last month, Pakistan's military warned the US against the possibility of taking unilateral action against armed groups on its soil, after Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, urged Pakistan to do more to "defeat terrorist organisations".

Christians, too, are often discriminated against in Pakistan, in various ways.

Engaging views and analysis from outside contributors on the issues affecting society and faith today.

The signees also urged journalists, human rights organizations, embassies and other government authorities to document cases of human rights violations in Iran so as to build awareness and increase worldwide pressure for reforms.

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