WASHINGTON: The United States on Friday placed Pakistan on a list of countries that “engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom” during 2022.

“Around the world, governments and non-state actors harass, threaten, jail, and even kill individuals on account of their beliefs,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken while announcing the designations.

“In some instances, they stifle individuals’ freedom of religion or belief to exploit opportunities for political gain.”

Noting that such actions sow division, undermine economic security, and threaten political stability and peace, the top US diplomat said his country “will not stand by in the face of these abuses”.

Therefore, “today, I am announcing designations against Burma (Myanmar), the People’s Republic of China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, the DPRK (North Korea), Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern …for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom”.

He said he was also placing Algeria, the Central African Republic, Comoros, and Vietnam on the Special Watch List for engaging in, or tolerating, severe violations of religious freedom.

Pakistan stayed on this several years before it was moved to the list of violators.

The Trump administration first placed Pakistan on this list in Dec 2018 and retained it in 2020 as well. The Biden administration, which came to office in January last year, retained the old list with some changes, but kept Pakistan on it. 

Countries are listed in this category for allegedly engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing, (and) egregious violations of religious freedom”.

Agencies add: Cuba, Nicaragua and Russia’s Wagner mercenary group were added to the blacklist on international religious freedom, opening the path to potential sanctions.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Wagner Group was being designated due to involvement in abuses in the Central African Republic, where nearly a decade of fighting has pitted Christians against Muslims.

Cuba and Nicaragua were both newly designated as “Countries of Particular Concern” under the annual determinations, meaning that the two leftist Latin American states _ already under US sanctions _ could face further measures.

Nicaragua’s increasingly authoritarian president, Daniel Ortega, has clamped down on the Catholic Church since accusing it of supporting 2018 protests against his government, which were crushed at the cost of hundreds of lives.

A bishop critical of the government, Rolando Alvarez, was put under house arrest in August with other priests and seminarians arrested on unspecified charges.

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2022

Opinion

Editorial

Mianwali raid
Updated 02 Feb, 2023

Mianwali raid

The military needs to share intelligence with civilian agencies to neutralise the militant menace nationwide.
Corruption unlimited
02 Feb, 2023

Corruption unlimited

PAKISTAN’S consistent slide on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index over the last several...
Women police officers
02 Feb, 2023

Women police officers

IN a heartening development, a second female police officer has been appointed as DPO in Attock, weeks after the...
Road to perdition
Updated 01 Feb, 2023

Road to perdition

This is also the time of reckoning for those who sowed the seeds of a disastrous policy against militants.
Transport tragedies
01 Feb, 2023

Transport tragedies

TWO tragedies over the weekend illustrate the weak protocols governing the safety of transport in Pakistan. In fact,...
Disqualifying Jam Awais
01 Feb, 2023

Disqualifying Jam Awais

IT appears that there may be some kind of small punishment after all for PPP lawmaker Jam Awais, who was pardoned ...