US adds Pakistan to list of religious violator countries

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Secretary Blinken

Washington: The United States Friday added Pakistan to the list of countries that “engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom”.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement governments and non-state actors harass, threaten, jail, and even kill individuals on account of their beliefs around the world. He said that, in some instances, they stifle individuals’ freedom of religion or belief to exploit opportunities for political gain. Such actions, according to Blinken, sow division, undermine economic security and threaten political stability and peace.

“The United States will not stand by in the face of these abuses,” Blinken pledged.

“I am announcing designations against Burma, the People’s Republic of China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, the DPRK, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom,” the Secretary of State announced.

He placed Algeria, the Central African Republic, Comoros, and Vietnam on the “Special Watch List” for engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom.

Blinken also said that he was designating al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, the Taliban, and the Wagner Group based on its actions in the Central African Republic as “Entities of Particular Concern”.

The countries that effectively safeguard religious freedom and other human rights are more peaceful, stable, prosperous, and more reliable partners of the United States than those that do not, he added.

Blinken said that the US would continue to “carefully monitor” the status of freedom of religion or belief in every country around the world and advocate for those facing religious persecution or discrimination.

“We will also regularly engage countries about our concerns regarding limitations on freedom of religion or belief, regardless of whether those countries have been designated.”