US places Pakistan, nine others on violators of religious freedom list

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the University of Louisville McConnell Center's Distinguished Speaker Series in Louisville, Ky., Monday, Dec. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

WASHINGTON: Secre­t­a­ry of State Michael Pompeo announced on Mon­day that the United States had designated Pakis­tan, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turk­m­enistan, Nigeria, Nor­th Korea, Myanmar and Eritrea as “countries of part­ic­ular Concern” (CPC) under its International Religious Freedom Act.

The statement accused these countries of “engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom”.

Secretary Pompeo also announced placing the Comoros, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Russia on a special watch list for governments that engage in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom”.

The commission’s 2020 report noted that religious freedom conditions across Pakistan had continued to trend negatively.

The systematic enforcement of blasphemy and anti-Ahmadia laws, and authorities’ failure to address forced conversions of religious minorities — including Hindus, Christians, and Sikhs — to Islam, severely restricted freedom of religion or belief,” it added.

The report noted that nearly 80 individuals remained imprisoned for blasphemy in Pakistan, with at least half facing a life sentence or death.

After spending five years in solitary confinement for allegedly posting blasphemous content online, Junaid Hafeez was given the death sentence in December last year, the report added.

The report, however, acknowledged that last year they also noted “some high-profile acquittals” in Pakistan.