WASHINGTON: Secretary of State Michael Pompeo declared on Monday that under his International Religious Freedom Act, the United States had named Pakistan, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Nigeria, North Korea, Myanmar and Eritrea as countries of part-icular concern (CPC).
The statement accused these countries of “engaging in or tolerating “systematic, continuing, egregious religious freedom abuses.
“Secretary Pompeo also announced that the Comoros, Cuba, Nicaragua and Russia should be placed on a special watch list for governments committing or tolerating “significant violations of religious freedom.
Religious freedom standards across Pakistan have continued to trend adversely, the Commission’s 2020 report observed.
It added that the widespread implementation of blasphemy and anti-Ahmadian laws, and the refusal of authorities to resolve forced conversions of religious minorities to Islam, including Hindus, Christians, and Sikhs, seriously limited freedom of faith or belief.
The study noted that nearly 80 people were jailed in Pakistan for blasphemy, with at least half serving a life sentence or death.
Junaid Hafeez was granted the death penalty in December last year after serving five years in solitary confinement for reportedly uploading blasphemous material online, the article said.
However the report admitted that they had noticed several high-profile acquittals in Pakistan last year.
Additionally, Al Shabaab, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslim, and even the Taliban were named by the United States.
Observers in Washington were shocked to put the Taliban among these groups, predicting that this could hinder US attempts to finalise a peace agreement with them.
“Due to the total loss of territory previously controlled by these terrorist organisations, we have not renewed the previous Special Concern Entity designations for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS-Khorasan,” Secretary Pompeo said.
The US chief diplomat also announced the withdrawal of Sudan and Uzbekistan from the unique “based on substantial, concrete progress” watch list conducted by them during the past year.
In its 2020 report, released in April, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which recommends designations, downgraded India to its lowest level of countries of particular concern” (CPC).
India was put alongside China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in the survey, published in Washington by the federal government commission that acts as an advisory body.
In the listing last year, India was classified as a “Tier 2 country”. However the notification released by the State Department on Tuesday does not list India among the countries of special concern.
The commission’s report noted that religious freedom conditions in India encountered a dramatic downward change last year with religious minorities under increasing attack. It also noted that the BJP government permitted violence to proceed with impunity against minorities and their houses of worship and accepted hate speech and incitement to violence.