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By Atika Rehman
Published: September 14, 2011
WASHINGTON: The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) expressed concern over Pakistan’s omission from the list of eight countries termed “countries of particular concern” with regards to violation of religion freedom.
The list was published by the US State Department in a report which listed Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan as countries where religious rights were severely infringed.
Although Pakistan was omitted from the list, the report stated that Pakistan’s laws restrict religious freedom and that the government enforced these restrictions. It also adds that investigation and prosecution of perpetrators in the case of extremist attacks on minorities are rare.
Citing the blasphemy law and Aasia Bibi’s case, the report suggests that the Pakistan government distanced itself from a bill proposed by an MNA to repeal the “discriminatory” law.
It also mentions that the Ahmadiyya community along with members of other Islamic sects, Christians, Sikhs, and Hindus face governmental and societal discrimination.
The report noted, however, that the government took some measures to improve religious freedom. It mentioned the late Federal Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti’s attempts to assist victims of religiously motivated attacks.
The commission on Tuesday remarked that it is concerned that no new countries were added to the list.” said
‘Don’t forget Pakistan’
“Repeating the current list continues glaring omissions, such as Pakistan and Vietnam … we respectfully urge Secretary Clinton to consider the six additional countries we recommended for designation,” said Leonard Leo, USCIRF Chair.
The other four countries recommended by the commission are Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria and Turkmenistan.
Commenting on the report, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged governments Tuesday to do more to defend religious freedom as Washington released a report citing eight countries with troubling records on the issue.
“We reaffirm the role that religious freedom and tolerance play in building stable and harmonious societies. Hatred and intolerance are destabilizing,” Clinton said.