The United States on Tuesday said that it has added Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom, ramping up pressure over its treatment of minorities. The development comes a year after the US State Department put Pakistan on its watchlist.
.@SecPompeo: Safeguarding #ReligiousFreedom is vital to ensuring peace, stability & prosperity. These designations are aimed at improving the lives of individuals and the broader success of their societies. Read @SecPompeo's Religious Freedom Designations. https://t.co/CZjTHrp4H2— Department of State (@StateDept) December 11, 2018
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had designated Pakistan among “countries of particular concern” in a congressionally mandated annual report, meaning the US government is obliged to exert pressure to end freedom violations.
Pakistan recently charged a hard-line cleric, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, with terrorism and sedition after he led violent protests against Bibi’s acquittal. The government moved to resolve its most high-profile case, with the Supreme Court in October releasing Asia Bibi — a Christian woman on death row for eight years for blasphemy.
“In far too many places across the globe, individuals continue to face harassment, arrests or even death for simply living their lives in accordance with their beliefs,” Pompeo said in a statement.
“The United States will not stand by as spectators in the face of such oppression,” he said.
Seven countries remained for another year on the list of Countries of Particular Concern — Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
The United States removed one country from the list — Uzbekistan — but kept it on the watch list. Pompeo also put on the watch list Russia, adding another item of contention to the relationship between the two powers.
(With inputs from agencies)