Govt Objects To Pakistan’s Designation On Religious Freedom Blacklist
The Foreign Office on Wednesday rejected the United States’ designation of Pakistan among “countries of particular concern” (CPC) under its International Religious Freedom Act, terming it an “arbitrary and selective assessment”.
In a statement, the FO said the designation was “completely against the realities on the ground” and raised doubts about the credibility of the process, citing the “glaring omission of India” from the blacklist.
A day earlier, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced that the US had designated Pakistan, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Nigeria, North Korea, Myanmar and Eritrea as CPCs, accusing them of engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom”.
The FO responded that “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.”
On the other hand, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) report noted that religious freedom conditions across Pakistan had continued to trend negatively.
“The systematic enforcement of blasphemy and anti-Ahmadia laws, and authorities’ failure to address forced conversions of religious minorities — including Hindus, Christians, and Sikhs — to Islam, severely restricted freedom of religion or belief,” it added.
The report further noted that nearly 80 individuals remained imprisoned for blasphemy in Pakistan, with at least half facing a life sentence or death. However, it acknowledged that last year, they also noted “some high-profile acquittals” in Pakistan.
Omission of India
The Foreign Office noted that the report ignored the violations of religious freedom in India under the current government, saying that “state complicity in organised violence against the Muslim minority in India” was a matter of record.
“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.
“It is no secret that attacks by cow vigilantes and mob lynchings of Indian Muslims take place regularly, with complete impunity for the perpetrators. Systematic demonisation, dispossession, marginalisation and targeted violence against Muslims using the communal slur of ‘love jihad’ in Hindutva-inspired India has become commonplace,” the statement said.
“The findings and recommendations of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, as well as the US Congressional hearings on the maltreatment of minorities in India and the violation of religious freedom all over the country including in the Muslim-majority Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) were ignored by the US State Department,” the FO lamented.
Pakistan “believes the redressal of the rising trend of intolerance, discrimination, xenophobia and Islamophobia requires global efforts based on the principles of cooperation and mutual understanding”, the statement said, adding that the country was playing its part in the effort.