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United States Commission on Intl Religious Freedom
I. THE U.S. COMMISSION ON INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: INTRODUCTION AND ACTIVITIES FROM MAY 15, 2001 TO MAY 1, 2002
A. Introduction and Overview of the Commission
2. The Commissions Impact on U.S. Policy
The Commissions work has been instrumental in recent breakthroughs in Pakistan. The Commission:
B. Commission Activities During the 2001-2002 Reporting Cycle
In May 2001 the Commission wrote Secretary Powell, asking him to raise religious freedom issues with Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar during his visit to Washington on June 18-20. It was reported that Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Christina Rocca raised concerns about abuses of the blasphemy law with Pakistani officials during her July 2001 trip to the region.
In its May 2001 annual report, the Commission recommended that the United States, in its bilateral relations with the Pakistani government, take the position that the separate-electorate system for religious minorities is inconsistent with democratic principles. On a number of occasions, the Commission reiterated its recommendations to U.S. officials and representatives of the Pakistani government. Commission staff also met with the new U.S. ambassador to Pakistan. In January 2002 the Pakistani government announced plans to abolish the separateelectorate system. In recent months the Pakistani government has also undertaken efforts to prevent militant religious extremist groups and religious schools from promoting violence or possessing any type of weapons, in line with a Commission recommendation. As recommended by the Commission, the 2002 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill allocated funds ($8 million to USAID) for basic education programs in Pakistan. The Commission wrote President Bush in February 2002, on the eve of President Musharrafs state visit to the United States, acknowledging the Pakistani governments progress on the above-noted issues and asking that President Bush raise religious freedom issues with the Pakistani leader during their talks.
II. THE INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ACT AND THE STATE DEPARTMENTS ANNUAL REPORT ON INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM 2001.
C. Implementation of IRFA
2. Other Countries Meriting Close Scrutiny as Candidates for CPC Designation
The Commission also finds grave violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by the governments of India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. The Commissions findings concerning India, Pakistan, and Vietnam are discussed in detail in its annual report of May 1, 2001...
On a more positive note, the Commission welcomes recent steps taken by Pakistans President Pervez Musharraf to abolish the separate electorate system for religious minorities, to improve the education system, and to curb violence in the name of religion. The Commission strongly hopes that these steps will be followed by others that address ongoing violations of religious freedom in Pakistan. Several of these are detailed in the Commissions 2001 annual report and they include eliminating abuses under the blasphemy laws and laws targeting Ahmadis. Moreover, there have recently been deadly attacks on churches in Pakistan. Although the government has taken steps to investigate these incidents, these steps have not yet been adequate to hold accountable those responsible for the attacks.
I. Campaign Against Terrorism
1. The United States should not compromise its commitment to promoting human rights including religious freedom during the campaign against terrorism, and should not trade-off that commitment for the cooperation of foreign governments in that campaign. The U.S. government must ensure that steps to improve relations with cooperating countries that have major problems protecting religious freedom and other human rights (e.g., China, Russia, Pakistan, Sudan, and Uzbekistan) do not undermine its human rights message to the governments of these countries. It should carefully monitor whether these steps are impeding progress on improvements in protecting human rights.
6. The State Department should monitor closely religious freedom in India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam and respond vigorously to further violations there that may merit CPC designation at any time throughout the year.
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