US retains Pakistan on religious watch list

Updated December 21, 2019

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The United States has retained Pakistan among the countries that tolerate religious discrimination, says a US State Depart­ment statement released on Friday. — AFP/File
The United States has retained Pakistan among the countries that tolerate religious discrimination, says a US State Depart­ment statement released on Friday. — AFP/File

WASHINGTON: The United States has retained Pakistan among the countries that tolerate religious discrimination, says a US State Depart­ment statement released on Friday.

The determination, made on Dec 18, includes Myanmar, China, Erit­r­­ea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkm­enistan among the states that have been re-designated as “Countries of Particular Concern (CPC)”.

The State Department makes these designations under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 and countries on the CPC list are classified as “having engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing, [and] egregious violations of religious freedom”.

Countries in this category can face further actions, including economic sanctions, by the United States.

The State Department also renewed the placement of Comoros, Russia and Uzbekistan on a Special Watch List (SWL) for governments that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom”, and added Cuba, Nicaragua, Nigeria and Sudan to this list.

Sudan was moved to the SWL due to significant steps taken by the civilian-led transitional government to address the previous government’s “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom”.

The watch list includes countries where religious freedom conditions do not rise to the statutory level requiring CPC designation, but which require close monitoring due to the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by the governments.

The State Department also designated Al-Nusra Front, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Al Qaeda, Al-Shabab, Boko Haram, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Khorasan and Taliban as Entities of Particular Concern.

“These designations underscore the United States’ commitment to protect those who seek to exercise their freedom of religion or belief,” the State Department said. “We believe that everyone, everywhere, at all times, should have the right to live according to the dictates of their conscience.”

Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2019