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Pakistan rejects designation in watch list for religious freedom violations

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Friday rejected the designation of Pakistan in the ‘Special Watch List for severe violations of religious freedom’ by the United States.

In a statement, the Foreign Office stated that the report is not based on objective criteria and this placement on special watch list is a new categorisation, and they would seek clarification from the US regarding its rationale and implications.

It further stated that the designation overlooks the significant achievements of Pakistan in the area of human rights.

“Pakistan is firmly committed to the promotion and protection of human rights including the right of religious freedom under its constitution,” it said.

It said that government of Pakistan has undertaken a wide ranging legislative, institutional and administrative measures to ensure full implementation of guarantees afforded by the constitution.

The international community is aware of the incremental steps being taken by Pakistan that have brought about positive changes on ground.

It expressed surprise that countries that have a well known record of systematic persecution of religious minorities have not been included in the list. This reflects the double standards and political motives behind the listing and hence lacks credibility.

“Pakistan will continue to work with the international community to ensure that internationally agreed standards on religious freedom are observed in Pakistan and the broader region, ” it said.

The US State Department placed Pakistan on a special watch list for “severe violations of religious freedom” days after the White House said Islamabad would have to do more to combat terrorism.

The State Department also said it had re-designated 10 other nations as “countries of particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act for having engaged in or tolerated egregious violations of religious freedom.

The re-designated countries were China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. They were re-designated on Dec. 22.

“The protection of religious freedom is vital to peace, stability, and prosperity,” the department said in a statement. “These designations are aimed at improving the respect for religious freedom in these countries.”

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