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ICC Note:

A group of influential US Senators have said that Pakistan should be designated a “country of particular concern” because of its religious freedom violations and have urged the US State Department to follow their recommendation. Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan face widespread discrimination and instances of outright persecution. Abused blasphemy laws, forced conversions to Islam, and terrorist attacks on minority neighborhoods and places of worship only lists a few of the issues faced by religious minorities in Pakistan. Will the US designate and sanction Pakistan as a country of particular concern?

10/31/2017 Pakistan (World Watch Monitor) – Pakistan should be designated a “country of particular concern” because of its violations of religious freedom, according to a group of influential US senators.

Senators Bob Menendez, Marco Rubio, Chris Coons, Todd Young, Jeff Merkley and James Lankford wrote to US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson ahead of the 13 November deadline by which the State Department needs to notify Congress on its country of particular concern (CPC) designations.

Their joint letter said: “Pakistan continues to perpetrate and tolerate systematic, ongoing and egregious religious freedom violations. Discriminatory constitutional provisions and laws, including the country’s blasphemy and anti-Ahmadiyya measures, continue to result in the unjust prosecution and imprisonment of individuals due to their faith.

“At least 40 people are currently sentenced to death or are serving life sentences for blasphemy. Religious minority communities, including Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis, and Shi’a Muslims, also experience religiously motivated and sectarian violence perpetrated by terrorist organisations and societal elements with relative impunity. Additionally, provincial textbooks with discriminatory content against minorities remain a significant concern.”

The senators urged Tillerson to take into consideration the recommendations of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which, in its most recent annual report, found that 16 countries met the CPC standard, including Pakistan. USCIRF said in its report that “designating Pakistan as a CPC would enable the United States to more effectively press Islamabad to undertake needed reforms”.

The senators said they “expect to receive CPC designations by 13 November … and actions taken by 11 February 2018”.

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