China and Pakistan continue to remain in the US blacklist for the persecution of religious minorities while neighbouring India which has been lamented for its new citizenship bill, continues to impress with its secular and democratic image.
The US published its 2019 annual blacklist for religious freedom violations, where nine countries, including Pakistan and China, remained on the State Department’s annual list of “countries of particular concern” for having engaged in or tolerated “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom”.
According to the announcement made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Pakistan’s name featured in the list of countries, which are subject to sanctions over religious liberty.
“On December 18, 2019, the Department of State re-designated Myanmar, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern,” Pompeo said in the statement.
“The Department renewed the placement of Comoros, Russia, and Uzbekistan on a Special Watch List (SWL) for governments that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom, and added Cuba, Nicaragua, Nigeria, and Sudan to this list,” he added.
“Finally, we designated al-Nusra Front, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qa’ida, al-Shabab, Boko Haram, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Khorasan, and the Taliban as Entities of Particular Concern,” Pompeo said in the statement.
These designations under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for “having engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom” underscored the US commitment to protect those who seek to exercise their freedom of religion or belief, Pompeo said.
The statement said that persecution and discrimination on the basis of religion or belief existed in every region of the world. “The United States continues to work diligently to promote religious freedom and combat abuses,” it said.
Rights groups and US officials accuse China of incarcerating at least one million Uighurs and other Muslims, and US ally Saudi Arabia is in the list for following a rigid school of religious thought. Sudan as well as Uzbekistan, which was removed from the blacklist in 2018, were kept on the watchlist.