US Places Pakistan on Watch List for Severe Violations of Religious Freedom

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

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Washington, DC – The US State Department this week placed Pakistan on a “Special Watch List (SWL)” for “severe violations of religious freedom,”  and re-designated ten others as “countries of particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act.

Confirming that the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson placed, “Pakistan on the SWL,” a State Department spokesperson explained to IAT, “The Secretary of State takes into consideration all of the information available in conducting his review. His most recent assessment is that Pakistan does not meet the criteria for CPC designation, but meets the Special Watch List criteria.”

Urging “the Government of Pakistan to protect religious freedom for all individuals,” the spokesperson noted, “CPC designations can be made at any time, as conditions warrant.”

In addition, Secretary Tillerson, “re-designated Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan as CPCs,” said the spokesperson.

Giving the background on the move, the spokesperson told IAT, “The administration is implementing the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRF Act), as amended, which requires the President to designate governments that have engaged in or tolerated “particularly severe violations of religious freedom” as “Countries of Particular Concern.” (CPCs), and to place a country that has engaged or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom,” but that does not meet all of the criteria for designation as a CPC, on a Special Watch List (SWL).” “These authorities have been delegated to the Secretary of State,” the spokesperson concluded.

Earlier, a statement from the State Department said, “The protection of religious freedom is vital to peace, stability, and prosperity. These designations are aimed at improving the respect for religious freedom in these countries.”

The placing of Pakistan on the SWL is not so important but the timing is, as the Trump Administration is increasing the pressure on Islamabad to do more in its fight against terror groups operating from its soil.

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