US ignores religious freedom panel’s proposal to sanction Pakistan

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WASHINGTON: The Trump administration has refused to designate Pakistan as Country of Particular Concern (CPC) after the Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) again recommended that the country should be declared as CPC.

The USCIRF has been making the same recommendation since 2002.

On Dec 22, 2017, Pakistan was placed on the Special Watch List, making it the only country to be put under the newly-formed list.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had announced re-designation of 10 countries as ‘Countries of Particular Concern’ (CPC). “The secretary also placed Pakistan on a Special Watch List for severe violations of religious freedom,” State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert had said.

The countries are designated on the recommendation of the USCIRF in line with the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). IRFA requires the US government to designate as CPC any country whose government engages in, or tolerates, particularly severe religious freedom violations that are systematic, ongoing, and egregious.

The List is for countries that engage in or tolerate severe violations of religious freedom but may not rise to the level of the CPC. It is being seen as a step below designating it as CPC, which would have automatically kicked in economic and political sanctions.

Pakistan, notably, is the first ever country to be placed on the Special Watch List, which is a new category created by the Frank R Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2016.

It is pertinent to mention here that members of the minority communities and human rights activists had condemned the United States move of placing Pakistan on the Special Watch List for “severe violations” of religious freedom, calling the designation a “joke” in the backdrop of current political scenario.