Pakistan on US 'Special Watch List' for severe violations of religious freedom

Jan 05, 2018, 12:36
Pakistan on US 'Special Watch List' for severe violations of religious freedom

In the latest indicator of souring U.S. -Pakistan relations, the State Department this week placed Pakistan on a special watch list over its religious freedom violations, an aggressive move likely to worsen dialogue between the two allies.

The Special Watch List is for countries that engage in or tolerate severe violations of religious freedom.

A statement from the state department says, "The Secretary also placed Pakistan on a Special Watch List for severe violations of religious freedom".

"The protection of religious freedom is vital to peace, stability, and prosperity", the State Department said in their statement.

"The designation of these countries is a key step in ensuring continued USA engagement in support of worldwide religious freedom".

In an interview with Voice of America, McMaster said the USA president's tweet was not a blame-game rather it was America's effort to communicate clearly to Pakistan that "our relationship can no longer bear the weight of contradictions and that we have to really begin now to work together to stabilise Afghanistan".

Annually, the secretary of state designates governments that have engaged in or tolerated ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.

"I think this is a reflection of the overall frustration of the United States with Pakistan", the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center director, Bharath Gopalaswamy, told VOA Thursday.

Earlier this week, the White House said Islamabad would have to do more to combat terrorism to receive USA aid.

Pakistan responded to the Trump administration's decision by saying it is already doing as much as they can to fight militants, and asked the USA ambassador to explain a tweet by Trump that said the United States shouldn't have been giving aid to Islamabad.

The commission cited Hindus, Christians and Shiia Muslims as being the victims of sectarian violence in the country, as well as the government's failure to work to prevent and prosecute those responsible.

This has come in the backdrop of US President Donald Trump criticising Pakistan for not doing enough to combat terrorism, in a strongly-worded tweet. "That changed today", former Pakistani ambassador Husain Haqqani tweeted, referencing the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also called a cabinet meeting on the comments, while Pakistan's National Security Committee noted its "deep disappointment with some of the [U.S. president's] recent statements".

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