Pakistan Put On Special Watch List For 'Severe Violations Of Religious Freedom'

Christians hold a Stand Up for Religious Freedom rally in Miami Florida

The Frank Wolf Act also required designations for non-state actors engaged in particularly severe religious freedom violations as "entities of particular concern" (EPCs).

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a government commission created in 1998 to study religious liberty around the world, praised the inclusion of the 10 CPC counties, but said that several others should have been added. These designations are aimed at improving the respect for religious freedom in these countries.

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.

In a fresh move, the United States of America has put Pakistan on its "special watch list" for "severe violations of religious freedom", State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said on Thursday.

Under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, the United States annually designates countries of particular concern, and Thursday's statement re-designated Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

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Vietnam was previously designated as a CPC, but was taken off the list about a decade ago, in opposition to USCIRF's recommendation. 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.

A bipartisan group of six senators, including Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), asked Tillerson in October to make Pakistan a CPC, citing systematic religious oppression. "Religious minority communities, including Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis, and Shi'a Muslims, also experience religiously motivated and sectarian violence perpetrated by terrorist organizations and societal elements with relative impunity".

"It is our responsibility, as Americans, to speak for those with no voice", he commented Thursday. The designations were made on December 22, it said.

In addition, Pakistan was placed on a "Special Watch List", which is a new category below that of Countries of Particular Concern.

"That said, Pakistan has not been a great place for other religious minorities and there has been consistent targeting of minorities", Gopalaswamy said.

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