Published: Fri, January 05, 2018
Medicine | By Melba Vasquez

U.S. targets 10 countries over religious freedom violations

U.S. targets 10 countries over religious freedom violations

In all, the U.S. State Department said it had re-designated 10 countries over violations of religious freedoms.

Eritrea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan also were on the list, the State Department said. Advocates of religious freedom applauded the list, but said that several additional countries should have been added. The 10 countries on the CPC list are unchanged from previous year.

While putting Pakistan on the global religious freedom blacklist itself is a normal process, experts said the timing is "very ominous".

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Moeed Yusuf, associate vice president of the United States Institute of Peace, said there is a consensus within the Trump administration that it would increase pressure on Pakistan. He added that Pakistan considers its minorities an important part of its social fabric.

A former member of Pakistani Parliament Farahnaz Ispahani, welcomed the State Department's decision to place her country on a Special Watch List.

Sabah adds: While stating that US President Donald Trump is frustrated but also values a partnership with Pakistan, the US National Security Adviser HR McMaster has alleged Islamabad only goes after terrorists selectively while it sustains and supports others who act as an arm of its foreign policy.

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The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has recommended keeping a check on Pakistan in the past too, but the previous US administrations avoided taking steps "because of strategic political reasons", said Pakistan's former ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani.

A country is labeled as a CPC after it engages in "systemic, ongoing, [and] egregious" violations of religious liberty. "His most recent assessment is that Pakistan does not meet the criteria for CPC designation, but meets the Special Watch List criteria", a State Department Spokesperson told PTI. News of persecution against them often come either in the form of someone being punished under the country's especially harsh blasphemy laws, or women and girls being forced into inter-religious marriages. Royce said Vietnam has regularly violated both religious liberty and other basic human rights, and that it is the United States' responsibility to call out these violations. FMF, which funds purchases of US military hardware, training and services and comes under the State Department Authority and amounts to $255 million has also been frozen.

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