The United States State Department on Thursday placed Pakistan on a Special Watch List for severe violations of religious freedoms. The categorisation is part of the department’s annual review of governments that have “engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom as Countries of Particular Concern”.

The re-designations are in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 in the United States. The US had listed Myanmar, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan as countries of particular concern on December 22, 2017, the department announced.

“These designations are aimed at improving the respect for religious freedom in these countries,” the department’s statement said. “We recognize that several designated countries are working to improve their respect for religious freedom; we welcome these initiatives and look forward to continued dialogue. The United States remains committed to working with governments, civil society organizations, and religious leaders to advance religious freedom around the world.”