United States places Pakistan on watch list for violations of religious freedom

United States places Pakistan on watch list for violations of religious freedom

Pakistan has faced global condemnation over its treatment of religious minorities, especially Christians, Ahmadi Muslims and Hindus.

Moeed Yusuf, associate vice president of the United States Institute of Peace, said there is a consensus within the Trump administration that it would increase pressure on Pakistan. According to USA officials, two main categories will be affected; Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and Coalition Support Funds (CSF).

A day after the White House threatened to cancel aid to Pakistan, the US Department of State has put the country on a special watch list for "severe 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.

It also explained that the action against Pakistan and the other countries, including Myanmar - which the statement called Burma - had been taken as part of the US' International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. Pakistan was the only country in the new category.

"This reflects the double standards and political motives behind the listing and hence lacks credibility".

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"These designations are aimed at improving the respect for religious freedom in these countries", said the State Department in a statement that described the protection of religious freedom as being vital to peace, stability and prosperity.

The commission cited Hindus, Christians and Shiia Muslims as being the victims of sectarian violence in the country, as well as the government's failure to work to prevent and prosecute those responsible. They make up around 1.6 percent of Pakistan's population.

Trump has criticized Pakistan for not doing more to combat terrorism, and his administration has informed members of Congress that it will announce plans to end "security assistance" payments to the country.

Earlier this week, the White House said Islamabad would have to do more to combat terrorism to receive USA aid.

Over the summer, the U.S. said it was withholding $255m in military assistance to Pakistan until the country increased efforts to crack down on internal "terrorist" groups. "Arbitrary deadlines, unilateral pronouncements and shifting goalposts are counterproductive in addressing common threats".

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