Pakistan on Tuesday rejected the United States’ move to list the country as a violator of religious freedom, Dawn reported. The United States had on December 18 retained Pakistan among the countries that tolerate religious discrimination, along with Myanmar, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, and called them “Countries of Particular Concern”.
The Pakistan Foreign Office said in a strongly-worded statement on Tuesday that the US report “is not only detached from the ground realities of Pakistan but also raises questions about the credibility and transparency of the entire exercise”. The Foreign Office also questioned India’s omission from the list, alleging that New Delhi was the “biggest violator of religious freedom”.
Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesperson Mohammad Faisal said that Pakistan’s designation in the list reflects “selective targeting” of countries. “Pakistan is a multi-religious and pluralistic country where people of all faiths enjoy religious freedom under constitutional protections,” the press release by the Foreign Office added. “The higher judiciary of the country has given landmark judgements directing on ensuring the sanctity and security of places of worship of minorities.”
The US State Department designates countries as tolerating religious discrimination on the basis of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. Countries in this list can face sanctions from Washington, Dawn reported.
Targeting India, the Pakistan Foreign Office said: “In today’s India, people belonging to minority communities are being lynched, persecuted and killed with impunity. The National Register of Citizens and the recently adopted Citizenship Amendment Act are the latest examples of the Indian government’s actions to discriminate against people and evidently pave the way towards cleansing of society on the basis of religion.”
The Citizenship Amendment Act, passed by the Indian Parliament on December 11, seeks to provide citizenship to religious minorities from six communities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, but excludes Muslims from its scope, leading to the charge that the law is anti-Muslim. On the other hand, the proposed National Register of Citizens is an exercise to identify and distinguish undocumented immigrants from genuine Indian citizens.