U.S. adds Pakistan to 'special watch list' for religious freedom violations

US Targets North Korea, Saudi Arabia, China Over Religious Freedom Violations

Placement on the watch list is a step below being a "country of particular concern" which can lead to sanctions a designation handed down to China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

"In far too many places around the globe, people continue to be persecuted, unjustly prosecuted, or imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief", according to the statement.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson placed Pakistan on a special watch list Thursday for severe violations of religious freedom.

Pakistan was added to the list under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 last month, with the announcement citing the country's "severe violations of religious freedom".

Pakistan is ready to face any United States action, the country's defense minister and the army spokesman said.

The State Department released a statement on Thursday pointing out that it had re-designated 10 other nations as "countries of particular concern".

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In a 2017 report, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom noted that the Pakistani government "continued to perpetrate and tolerate systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations".

Moeed Yusuf, associate vice president of the United States Institute of Peace, said there is a consensus within the Trump administration that it would increase pressure on Pakistan. The country has a dominantly Muslim north with the south being Christian. They make up around 1.6 percent of Pakistan's population.

Sabah adds: While stating that US President Donald Trump is frustrated but also values a partnership with Pakistan, the US National Security Adviser HR McMaster has alleged Islamabad only goes after terrorists selectively while it sustains and supports others who act as an arm of its foreign policy.

Earlier this week, the White House said Islamabad would have to do more to combat terrorism to receive US aid.

US Permanent Representative to the United Nations Nikki Haley also said Washington would withhold Dollars 255 million in assistance to Pakistan.

"We are determined to continue to do all it takes to secure the lives of our citizens and broader stability in the region".

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