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WASHINGTON, May 1: A US government-appointed panel urged Washington on Tuesday to step up pressure on Pakistan over religious freedom, alleging that risks to its minorities have reached a crisis level.

In an annual report, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom also raised concerns about what it called a worsening situation in China, as well as problems in Egypt, Iran, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia and other nations.

The commission, which advises the government but does not make decisions, called for the United States to designate Pakistan as a “country of particular concern”, meaning it could be subject to sanctions if it fails to improve.

Assessing the year through January 31, the commission alleged that religious freedom violations in Pakistan “rose to unprecedented levels due to chronic sectarian violence”.

“The government continues to fail to protect Christians, Ahmadis and Hindus,” the report said, charging that blasphemy and other laws “are widely used to … foster a climate of impunity”.—AFP