U.S. strikes another blow to Pakistan


An official statement from department spokesperson Heather Nauert also said the country had "re-designated Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan as Countries of Particular Concern on December 22, 2017". USCIRF had called for it to receive the designation, in part due to an anti-extremism law that has been used to label Jehovah's Witnesses as an extremist group, banning them from legally gathering or preaching in the country.

A statement from the state department says, "The Secretary also placed Pakistan on a Special Watch List for severe violations of religious freedom".

Pakistan rejecting the U.S. designation of Pakistan in the "Special Watch List for Severe Violations of Religious Freedom", has termed the report not based on objective criteria, a Foreign Office statement said here Friday. "Today, the Special Watch List designation status given to Pakistan by the US Secretary of State to Pakistan may help Pakistan's religious minorities".

A country is labeled as a CPC after it engages in "systemic, ongoing, [and] egregious" violations of religious liberty.

President Trump has recently criticized Pakistan for giving "safe haven to terrorists".

Moeed Yusuf, associate vice president of the United States Institute of Peace, said there is a consensus within the Trump administration that it would increase pressure on Pakistan.

After President Trump's lashed out at Pakistan in his first tweet of the year for the country's failure to act decisively to counter-terrorism and accused it of playing a double game, the US state department formally announced a halt in aid and security assistance to Pakistan.

The designation overlooks the significant achievements of Pakistan in the area of human rights. Advocates of religious freedom applauded the list, but said that several additional countries should have been added. "Additionally, provincial textbooks with discriminatory content against minorities remain a significant concern". "The administration is right to make this a priority".

The chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Ed Royce, (R-CA) said the redesignation of Myanmar as a country of particular concern is particularly appropriate, given its military's ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims.

"I think this is a reflection of the overall frustration of the United States with Pakistan", the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center director, Bharath Gopalaswamy, told VOA Thursday. "The U.S. should never shrink from calling out countries for such abuses".