World

Pakistan Put On Special Watch List For ‘Severe Violations Of Religious Freedom’

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson placed Pakistan on a special watch list Thursday for severe violations of religious freedom.

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert announced Pakistan’s placement on the list as well as the re-designation of 10 other countries as Countries of Particular Concern, via a press release Thursday. Tillerson made the re-designations and Pakistan’s placement on the list in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.

“In accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, the Secretary of State annually designates governments that have engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom as ‘Countries of Particular Concern,'” the press release reads.

“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,” it adds.

The international community has long scrutinized Pakistan for its history of abusive practices against Christians, Hindus, and Shia and Ahmadiyya Muslims. Twenty-four British politicians sent a letter to Pakistan’s leaders in August urging them to repeal the country’s blasphemy laws, which are often abused as tools in personal vendettas between individuals or to prosecute those who are not Sunni Muslims.

The 2016 U.S. International Religious Freedom Report for Pakistan states that Islam is the state religion of the country, that blasphemy laws are strictly enforced, and that religious minorities in Pakistan continue to suffer abuses ranging from attacks and murders by fellow citizens, forced conversions, and arranged marriages to Muslims.

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