World

US demotes Pakistan's religious freedom ranking

State Dept. downgrades country from special watch list status

11.12.2018
US demotes Pakistan's religious freedom ranking File Photo

By Umar Farooq

WASHINGTON

The U.S. placed Pakistan on a list of countries it says violates religious freedom, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday.

"In far too many places across the globe, individuals continue to face harassment, arrests, or even death for simply living their lives in accordance with their beliefs," Pompeo said in a statement.

In January, the State Department added Pakistan to a special watch list of governments that committed freedom of religion violations, and now it has been blacklisted as a country of particular concern (CPC).

The list includes Myanmar, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

Meanwhile, Comoros, Russia, and Uzbekistan were placed on the special watch list for violations of religious freedom.

The CPC list was created from the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, enacted by Congress as a foreign policy tool to raise awareness about religious freedom violations around the globe.

The relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan has nosedived since President Donald Trump took office, mainly due to a clash of interests in war-torn Afghanistan.

Washington accuses Islamabad of providing a safe haven to the powerful Haqqani network, which is blamed for numerous attacks on foreign forces in Afghanistan in recent years. Pakistan denies the allegations.

Pompeo also added al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda, al-Shabab, Boko Haram, the Houthis, Daesh, and the Taliban to a list of entities of particular concern, a list of non-state violators of religious freedom.

"These designations are aimed at improving the lives of individuals and the broader success of their societies," Pompeo said. "I recognize that several designated countries are working to improve their respect for religious freedom; I welcome such initiatives and look forward to continuing the dialogue."

*Michael Hernandez contributed to this story

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