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ISLAMABAD: Foreign Office on Thursday rejected designation of Pakistan as a “country of particular concern” by the US State Department’s “arbitrary and selective” assessment under the US domestic legislation on religious freedom, saying the glaring omission of India, where the RSS-BJP regime and their leaders openly disregard religious freedom against minorities in an institutionalised manner, is unfortunate and questions the credibility of the report.

“The designation of Pakistan as a “country of particular concern” is completely against the realities on the ground and raises serious doubts about the credibility of this exercise. Such subjective designations do not contribute towards promoting the cause of religious freedom worldwide,” Foreign Office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmad said in his weekly media briefing, while commenting on the US State Department latest report on Wednesday designating 10 countries, including Pakistan, China and Myanmar, as “countries of particular concern” in terms of violations of religious freedom.

The other such countries are Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.

“Pakistan and the US have been constructively engaging on the subject at the bilateral level, a fact regrettably overlooked by the US,” he said, adding that Pakistani society is multi-religious and pluralistic with a rich tradition of inter-faith harmony.

Religious freedom and the protection of the rights of minorities are guaranteed by our Constitution and ensured through a range of legislative, policy and administrative measures, he added.

“The glaring omission of India, where the RSS-BJP regime and their leaders openly disregard religious freedom and discriminate against minority communities in an institutionalized manner, is unfortunate and puts the credibility of the US report into question. State complicity in organized violence against the Muslim minority in India is a matter of record,” he said, adding that it is no secret that attacks by cow vigilantes and mob lynching of Indian Muslims take place regularly, with complete impunity for the perpetrators.

He added that systematic demonization, dispossession, marginalization and targeted violence against Muslims in Hindutva-inspired India has become commonplace.

“The findings and recommendations of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom as well as the US Congressional hearings on the maltreatment of minorities in India and the violation of religious freedom including in the Muslim-majority Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) were ignored by the US State Department,” he added.

He said that Pakistan believes the redressal of the rising trend of intolerance, discrimination, xenophobia and Islamophobia requires global efforts based on the principles of cooperation and mutual understanding. “Pakistan is sincerely playing its part in this endeavour and will continue to do so,” he added.

To a question about the legislation passed by the joint session of the parliament on Wednesday to provide the right to review to the jailed Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, he said that there is absolute clarity on the legislation adopted by which is in line with the International Court of Justice (Review and Re-consideration) Act, 2020 provides for the right of review and reconsideration in giving effect to the judgment of the ICJ in the case of Jadhav.

“Commander Jadhav, an Indian spy and RAW operative, facilitated numerous acts of terrorism in Pakistan, which resulted in the killings of countless innocent citizens of Pakistan,” he said, adding that the passage of the bill has reaffirmed that Pakistan continues to take its obligation with regard to the ICJ judgment very seriously.

“It is deeply regrettable that the government of India has refused to avail itself of the legal remedies provided by Pakistan. Government of Pakistan once again reminds the Government of India of its obligation to arrange for legal representation of Commander Jadhav under paragraph 118 of the ICJ judgment,” he added.

About Russia’s supply of S400 system to India, he said that Pakistan has taken note of supply of first of five S-400 ballistic missile defence systems to India, which affects strategic balance in South Asia.

“New Delhi is irresponsibly weaponizing outer space, has nuclearized Indian Ocean Region and is vertically proliferating…Pakistan will continue to take suitable measures to restore strategic balance and maintain a credible deterrence against India,” he added.

About the COP-26 in Glasgow, he said that Pakistan appreciates the role played by the United Kingdom in its capacity as the COP-26 presidency in ensuring that the Conference achieved visible progress on a range of issues with the adoption of “Glasgow Climate Pact”.

He said that a number of countries voluntarily announced new climate finance commitments.

Notably the developed countries announced financial pledges to the Adaptation Fund equivalent to US $356 million to fund concrete adaptation projects and programmes in the most climate vulnerable developing countries including Pakistan, he added.

As for Pakistan, in view of our forthcoming chairmanship of the G-77 and China starting from January 2022, he added that Pakistan remained actively engaged in COP-26 and its delegation to the COP was led by SAPM on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam.

Commenting on the statements coming from India about the re-opening of the Kartarpur Corridor, he termed the statement as hilarious apart from being untrue.

He said that the Corridor was temporarily closed due to the Covidsituation and from Pakistan side this short closure period was only three months and we reopened it in June 2020, and it has ever since remained open with Covid protocols from our side. “We have been urging for the Corridor’s reopening. We also conveyed this formally to the Indian side recently in the run-up to the birth anniversary celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak and proposed them to reopen. And not only us, the Sikh community who wanted to come and pray and pay their respects and homage, all those from within India and from other countries around the world, they were hoping, and urging India to open the Corridor,” he added.

He rejected that there was any pressure on Pakistan. “On the contrary, the pressure was clearly on India. Any way it is good that for whatever reason, they decided, though at the very last minute, that they were ready to open it…According to the agreement, there is requirement of sharing of lists of 10 days in advance. Nevertheless, despite the short notice, we were very clear, and responded very promptly to make this happen and to not provide any excuse,” he added.

Asked whether Pakistan has allowed wheat to be transited from Pakistan to Afghanistan, which is being sent by India, he said that the prime minister has recently stated that in the current context Pakistan would favourably consider the request by Afghan brothers for transportation of wheat offered by India – on exceptional basis, for humanitarian purposes, and as per modalities to be worked out, and that is what was being done.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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