U.S. puts Pakistan on watch list for religious freedom violations

The U.S. State Department put Pakistan on a “special watch list” Thursday for its treatment of religious minorities.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L), shown here with President Donald Trump, put Pakistan on a watch list for severe religious freedom violations. File Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L), shown here with President Donald Trump, put Pakistan on a watch list for severe religious freedom violations. File Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo

“Severe violations of religious freedom” were cited for adding Pakistan to the list, put in place under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, the State Department said in a statement. The law was passed during Bill Clinton’s administration as an initiative to make religious freedom a key objective of U.S. foreign policy.

Annually, the secretary of state designates governments that have engaged in or tolerated ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom. Thursday’s announcement redesignated countries of “particular concern,” which include Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

“In far too many places around the globe, people continue to be persecuted, unjustly prosecuted, or imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief,” according to the statement. “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 United States and Pakistan have had increased tensions recently. On Tuesday, United States’ ambassador to Pakistan was summoned by leaders in Islamabad — an ongoing response to a tweet from U.S. President Donald Trump Monday that slammed the Middle Eastern nation.

By Susan McFarland