‘Arbitrary and selective’: Pakistan rejects US religious freedom designation

Statesman Report
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wednesday rejected the US State Department’s “arbitrary and selective” assessment under a domestic legislation on religious freedom.
On Monday, the US had categorised Pakistan and nine other states as “countries of particular concern” (CPC) under its International Religious Freedom Act.
Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Nigeria, Myanmar, Eritrea and North Korea were the other “countries of particular concern”.
The announcement was made by Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who also announced that Russia, Nicaragua, Cuba and Comoros have been placed on a special watch list for countries that engage in “severe violations of religious freedoms”.
“The designation of Pakistan as a ‘country of particular concern’ is completely against the realities on the ground and raises serious doubts about the credibility of the exercise,” said a Foreign Office statement, adding that such subjective designations do not contribute towards promoting the cause of religious freedom worldwide.
It said that Pakistan and the US have been constructively engaging on the subject at the bilateral level, a fact regrettably overlooked by the US.
“Pakistani society is multi-religious and pluralistic with a rich tradition of inter-faith harmony. Religious freedom and the protection of the rights of minorities are guaranteed by our Constitution and ensured through a range of legislative, policy and administrative measures,” the statement further read.
The foreign office said that the glaring omission of India, where the RSS-BJP regime and their leaders openly disregard religious freedom and discriminate against minority communities in an institutionalised manner, was unfortunate and puts the credibility of the US report into question.
“State complicity in organised violence against the Muslim minority in India is a matter of record. It is no secret that attacks by cow vigilantes and mob lynchings of Indian Muslims take place regularly, with complete impunity for the perpetrators.”
The statement said that the systematic demonisation, dispossession, marginalisation and targeted violence against Muslims using the communal slur of “love jihad” in Hindutva-inspired India has become commonplace.
“The findings and recommendations of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom as well as the US Congressional hearings on the maltreatment of minorities in India and the violation of religious freedom all over the country including in the Muslim-majority Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) were ignored by the US State Department,” the foreign office maintained.
Pakistan’s views in this regard have been conveyed to the US side, it said. “We believe the redressal of the rising trend of intolerance, discrimination, xenophobia and Islamophobia requires global efforts based on the principles of cooperation and mutual understanding,” it added.
Pakistan is sincerely playing its part in this endeavour and will continue to do so, the FO maintained.