Pakistan has rejected the US State Department’s decision to include the theocratic state in a list of countries that violate religious freedom. This is the second consecutive year that the neighbouring country was blacklisted for the lack of religious freedom, along with eight other countries.
In the annual list of “countries of particular concern”, the United States lists nations that have been a part of or turned a blind eye to “systematic, ongoing, violations of religious freedom”. So far, only one country – Sudan – has been taken off the list.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that the blacklisted countries will be subject to sanctions over religious freedom.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office has, however, junked the allegation and claimed the report to be partial towards certain nations. “This pronouncement is not only detached from the ground realities of Pakistan, but also raises questions about the credibility and transparency of the entire exercise. The designation is reflective of selective targeting of countries and thus unlikely to be helpful to the professed cause of advancing religious freedom,” it said.
A statement released by Pakistan said that the country is a multi-religious, pluralistic country, claiming that “the biggest violator of religious freedom” was India, which has been conspicuously omitted from the list, reported the Daily News and Analysis.
The statement added: “All branches — the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary — have made concerted efforts to ensure that all citizens of Pakistan, irrespective of faith, denomination, caste or creed, can profess and practise their religion in full freedom. The higher judiciary of the country has given landmark judgments directing on ensuring the sanctity and security of places of worship of minorities.”
The Foreign Office highlighted Pakistan’s efforts to gain a better understanding of religious freedom and reminded how Senator Samuel Brownback, the US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, had visited Pakistan earlier in 2019. He had even held a dialogue with the top brass of the country to advance the goal of obtaining religious freedom across the world.
The statement said: “It is regrettable that this constructive engagement has been overlooked. The subjectivity and bias of the State Department’s designations are further illustrated by the conspicuous omission of India, the biggest violator of religious freedom.”