Pakistan rejects US religious freedom designations
Pakistan on Monday rejected the Religious Freedom Designation by the US for having “engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”
In a press conference held on Monday, Special Representative of the Prime Minister on Interfaith Harmony and Middle East Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi said that minority communities in Pakistan enjoy the same human rights as the rest of the citizens.
Ashrafi, who also chairs the Pakistan Ulema Council, said that the designations announced by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken last week based on information provided by the US Commission on Religious Freedom did not reflect reality.
He alleged that certain elements were allegedly involved in spreading disinformation against Pakistan to serve their hidden agendas to bring peace-loving countries in the comity of nations into disrepute.
Ashrafi invited the commission to visit Pakistan and witness for themselves the standard of living minority communities in the country enjoy and then revisit their report in light of their observations.
He said since December began, Christmas celebrations have kicked off around the country. He added that recently, the Hindu and Sikh communities had observed their religious festivals with fervor and without any fear because their rights were completely protected.
“The way, Muslims were being humiliated in the wake of Islamophobia in Canada, US, England and European countries, it was crystal-clear before the world,” he maintained.
Noting how the designations completely omitted India, Ashrafi said minorities there were being treated as third-class citizens.
“It proves that the report on religious freedom is based on prejudice and it has nothing to do with reality,” he opined.
Last week, Blinken had designated Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran among 12 nations as ‘Countries of Particular Concern’ under the US International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
He alos placed countries such as Algeria, the Central African Republic, Comoros, and Vietnam on the Special Watch List for engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom.
Several organizations were also designated as “Entities of Particular Concern”, including Al-Shabab (Kenya and Somalia), Boko Haram (Nigeria), Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Houthis (Yemen), ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, the Taliban (Pakistan/Afghanistan), and the Wagner Group based on its actions in the Central African Republic.
“Countries that effectively safeguard this and other human rights are more peaceful, stable, prosperous and more reliable partners of the United States than those that do not,” Blinken had stated while announcing the designations. However, the US did not include India in this list.