Aizaz asks US to clarify special watch list on religious freedom

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  • ‘We will ensure internationally-agreed standards on religious freedom’

  • FO says the report is not based on objective criteria

WASHINGTONPakistan’s Ambassador to Washington Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry has asked the US State Department to clarify its new categorization regarding placement of Pakistan on a ‘Special Watch List’ under the purview of the US legislation on International Religious Freedom.

“We have noted the announcement by the State Department regarding placement of Pakistan on a Special Watch List under the purview of the US legislation on International Religious Freedom. This is a new categorisation and we are seeking clarifications from the US side regarding its rationale and implications,” he said in a statement.

However, he said that it was important to acknowledge that Pakistan was firmly committed to promotion and protection of human rights including the right to religious freedom, under its constitution. “Wide-ranging legislative, institutional and administrative measures have been taken by the government geared to ensuring full coverage of guarantees afforded by the constitution,” he said.

Ambassador Aizaz said that the international community was well aware of incremental steps being taken by Pakistan that have brought about positive change on the ground. For instance, in the past year alone, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has come up with landmark decisions setting important precedents with regard to enforcement of the relevant constitutional provisions, in letter and spirit.

“We will continue to work with the international community with a view to ensuring that the internationally-agreed standards on religious freedom are observed in Pakistan and the broader region,” he said.

PAKISTAN REJECTS BEING PLACED ON LIST: Meanwhile, Pakistan Foreign office rejected Pakistan’s designation in the “special watch list for severe violations of religious freedom”, saying the report is not based on objective criteria.

In a statement, FO Spokesperson Muhammad Faisal said, he said the designation overlooked the significant achievements of Pakistan in the area of human rights.

Pakistan, the spokesperson said, is committed to the promotion and protection of human rights including the right of religious freedom under its Constitution.

Dr Faisal said the international community is aware of steps being taken by Pakistan that have brought about positive changes on the ground.

“It is surprising that countries that have a well known record of systematic persecution of religious minorities have not been included in the list,” the spokesperson added. “This reflects the double standards and political motives behind the listing and hence lacks credibility.”