WASHINGTON: The US designated 10 countries, including Pakistan, Russia and Saudi Arabia, as countries of particular concern on Wednesday for alleged religious freedoms violations.
“In far too many places around the world, we continue to see governments harass, arrest, threaten, jail, and kill individuals simply for seeking to live their lives in accordance with their beliefs. This Administration is committed to supporting every individual’s right to freedom of religion or belief, including by confronting and combating violators and abusers of this human right,” he added.
Nigeria, which was placed on the list last December under former President Donald Trump, was removed. Blinken is expected to visit the west African nation later this week amid his ongoing diplomatic tour of the continent.
Separately, the State Department said Algeria, Comoros, Cuba and Nicaragua have been added to a religious freedom watch list.
And al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, Daesh/ISIS, Daesh/SIS-Greater Sahara, Daesh/ISIS-West Africa, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal-Muslimin and the Taliban were listed as entities of particular concern.
According to a source, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has redesignated Pakistan as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for breaching religious freedom, as well as reclassifying the Taliban as an Entity of Particular Concern. Former President Donald Trump’s administration included Pakistan to the list in December 2018 and kept it there in 2020.
The Joe Biden administration has kept the original list with two changes: Russia has been added to the CPC category, and Sudan has been removed from the CPC category.
“Each year, the Secretary of State has the duty to identify nations and non-state entities who, because of their religious freedom abuses, merit designation under the International Religious Freedom Act,” Blinken said in a statement released by the State Department on Wednesday. For having engaged in or allowed “systematic, persistent, and egregious breaches of religious freedom,” I am designating Burma, the People’s Republic of China, Eritrea, Iran, the DPRK, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern. North Korea’s official name is DPRK. He was cited as adding, “I am also placing Algeria, Comoros, Cuba, and Nicaragua on a Special Watch List for regimes that have engaged in or tolerated ‘severe abuses of religious freedom.’
“I am designating Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, the DPRK, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern for having engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom,” Secretary Blinken said in a statement issued by his office.
“I am also placing Algeria, Comoros, Cuba, and Nicaragua on a Special Watch List for governments that have engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom,” he added.
Secretary Blinken also designated al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal-Muslimin, and the Taliban as Entities of Particular Concern.
Each year the Secretary of State identifies governments and non-state actors, who, he believes, merit designation under the US International Religious Freedom Act.
“We will continue to press all governments to remedy shortcomings in their laws and practices and to promote accountability for those responsible for abuses,” Mr Blinken said.
It may be recalled that on 14th August this year,the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) had welcomed the celebration of religious minorities day in Pakistan, hoping that the government would uphold the vision of inclusiveness and religious freedom advocated by its founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
In a message on Pakistan’s National Minority Day, USCRIF also posted one of Mr Jinnah’s quotes on its official Twitter site, declaring: “You are free: you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”
USCIRF is a federal commission whose commissioners are appointed by the US president and the leadership of both political parties in the Senate and the House of Representatives. It publishes an annual report on international religious freedom.