ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday called Washington’s decision to designate Pakistan as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) “detached from ground realities” and expressed concern over the exclusion of India from the list.
“I would now like to express Pakistan’s deep concern and disappointment on the US State Department’s unilateral and arbitrary designation of Pakistan as a “Country of Particular Concern (CPC),” said Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch during the weekly briefing.
The spokesperson highlighted that Pakistan had a “multi-religious and pluralistic society with a rich tradition of inter-faith harmony”.
She added that religious freedom and protection of the rights of minorities are guaranteed in the Constitution and enforced through a range of legislative, policy, and administrative measures.
“We have also noted with deep concern and disappointment that India, the biggest violator of religious freedom, has once again not been included in the State Department’s designation list despite a clear recommendation by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF),” deplored the spokesperson.
Baloch said that New Delhi’s “conspicuous omission raises serious questions about the credibility and transparency” of the process. She added that the “omission” also makes the list a “subjective and discriminatory exercise”.
The spokesperson reminded Washington that New Delhi’s treatment of religious minorities has been the “subject of several hearings of the US Congress and reports of UN high commissioner for human rights, the special procedure mandate holders of the UN Human Rights Council, and reputed international NGOs”.
“We have conveyed our concerns to the US government regarding this designation,” said the spokesperson.
‘Countries of concern’
Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the United States has designated Pakistan, China, Iran and Russia, among others, as countries of particular concern under the Religious Freedom Act over severe violations.
Blinken in a statement said those designated as countries of particular concern — which also include North Korea and Myanmar — engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom.
Algeria, the Central African Republic, Comoros and Vietnam were placed on the watch list.
Several groups, including the Kremlin-aligned Wagner Group, a private paramilitary organisation that is active in Syria, Africa and Ukraine, were also designated as entities of particular concern. The Wagner group was designated over its activities in the Central African Republic, Blinken said.
“Around the world, governments and non-state actors harass, threaten, jail, and even kill individuals on account of their beliefs,” Blinken said in the statement.
“The United States will not stand by in the face of these abuses.”
He added that Washington would welcome the opportunity to meet with all governments to outline concrete steps for removal from the lists.