Pakistan reacts to US religious freedom charges

The Nation  |  Dec 08, 2022

Islamabad on Thursday expressed concerns over the US State Department’s decision to designate Pakistan as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for religious freedom violation and to not put India on the list.

Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch at her weekly press briefing said the US move “unilateral” and “detached from ground realities,” saying religious freedom and minorities rights are guaranteed by the Constitution of Pakistan and implemented through legislative and administrative measures.

Calling India the “biggest violator” of religious freedom, she expressed disappointment over exclusion of New Delhi form the State Department’s designation list despite a clear recommendation by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

Ms Baloch expressed concerns over state sponsored terrorism, emanating from India to destabilize Pakistan. She urged the international community to take notice of this reality.

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Replying to a question regarding allegations by some foreign countries about presence of terrorist outfits in Pakistan, the spokesperson rejected the accusations.

She asserted Pakistan was a victim of terrorism. She said there have been undeniable proofs of India s direct involvement in the state sponsored terrorism inside Pakistan and the global community should take notice of India s approach of pointing fingers at others.

Ms Baloch condemned the atrocities being perpetrated in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. She said India is continuing with repression of Kashmiris without any consideration of international human rights laws and norms.

Last week, the US designated Pakistan as a country of particular concern under the Religious Freedom Act over violations 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 on Friday.

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

"The United States will not stand by in the face of these abuses," he said.

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”.

The US also placed Cuba, Nicaragua and Russia s Wagner mercenary group to a blacklist on international religious freedom, opening the path to potential sanctions.

Pakistan was first place on the list in Dec 2018 during the Trump’s tenure and retained it in 2020 as well. The Biden administration also kept Pakistan on the list.

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