In what seems like another major setback for Pakistan, the Islam majority country has found itself in the “Special Watch List” for “severe violations of religious freedom” placed by none other than the US State Department. This announcement came at the same time when the US officials proposed cuts to the security assistance it provides annually to Pakistan.
According to the statement issued by the US State Department on January 4, 2018:
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.
The State Department has redesignated 10 other nations as “countries of particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act.
If one may recall, the White House announced last week that in order to win favor of the US, Islamabad has to work more towards irradiating terrorism from the land. Also, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert announced that US will not give full security assistance to Pakistan unless the country severs all contacts with terror groups, such as Haqqani group, and takes appropriate action against them.
To stabilize this disruption between the States and Pakistan, the Pakistani High Commissioner to US, Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, told VOA that it is necessary for the two countries to remain engaged with each other in every way possible to avoid the creation of any more tension.
Talking on the same issue, Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center director, Bharath Gopalaswamy, said:
I think this is a reflection of the overall frustration of the United States with Pakistan. That said, Pakistan has not been a great place for other religious minorities and there has been consistent targeting of minorities. Various religious sects have been victims of violence.
On the other hand, the associate vice president of the United States Institute of Peace, Moeed Yusuf is of the opinion that there is a consensus within the White House that intends to create and maintain continuous pressure on Pakistan at this hour. He also added that despite US’ plan to cut down security assistance to Pakistan being a “done deal”, Pakistan will do nothing to implement counter terrorism or whatever the US is seeking from Pakistan. He said:
There is no champion of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship to speak of now in this administration.
Apart from Pakistan, Sudan, Tajikistan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan also feature in the dreadful list.