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Pakistan rejects US designation on religious freedom

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs have issued a statement: Source: MOFA

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has rejected the “arbitrary and selective assessment” by the US State Department under a domestic legislation on religious freedom.

The US had categorised Pakistan and nine other states as “countries of particular concern” (CPC) under its International Religious Freedom Act. Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Nigeria, Myanmar, Eritrea and North Korea were the other “countries of particular concern”.

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo also announced that Russia, Nicaragua, Cuba and Comoros have been placed on a special watch list for countries that engage in “severe violations of religious freedoms”.

“The designation of Pakistan as a “country of particular concern” is completely against the ground realities and raises serious doubts about the credibility of the exercise,” said a statement by Foreign Office Spokesperson Zahid Hafeez

He said such subjective designations do not contribute towards promoting the cause of religious freedom worldwide. The spokesperson said Pakistan and the United States have been constructively engaging on the subject at the bilateral level and the fact have been regrettably overlooked.

He said Pakistani society is multi-religious and pluralistic with a rich tradition of inter-faith harmony. “Religious freedom and the protection of the rights of minorities are guaranteed by our Constitution and ensured through a range of legislative, policy and administrative measures,” he added.

The spokesperson said the glaring omission of India, where the RSS-BJP regime and their leaders openly disregard religious freedom and discriminate against minority communities in an institutionalised manner, is unfortunate and puts the credibility of the US report into question.

He said the state complicity in organised violence against the Muslim minority in India is a matter of record. “It is no secret that attacks by cow vigilantes and mob lynchings of Indian Muslims take place regularly, with complete impunity for the perpetrators,” he added.

The spokesperson said the findings and recommendations of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom and the US Congressional hearings on the maltreatment of minorities in India and violations of religious freedom all over the country including in the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir were ignored by the US State Department.

The spokesperson said Pakistan’s views in this regard have been conveyed to the US side. He said Pakistan believes the rising trend of intolerance, discrimination, xenophobia and Islamophobia requires global efforts based on the principles of cooperation and mutual understanding.