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ISLAMABAD: Foreign Office on Thursday expressed Pakistan’s deep concern and disappointment on the US State “unilateral and arbitrary” designation of Pakistan as a “Country of Particular Concern (CPC)” and also conveyed the concerns to the Biden administration.

“I would like to express Pakistan’s deep concern and disappointment on the US State Department’s unilateral and arbitrary designation of Pakistan as a “Country of Particular Concern (CPC). This pronouncement is detached from ground realities of Pakistan,” Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said in her weekly media briefing.

On December 2, the US State Department announced designations against Burma, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, the DPRK, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as “Countries of Particular Concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 “for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

“Pakistan has a multi-religious and pluralistic society with a rich tradition of inter-faith harmony. Religious freedom and the protection of rights of minorities are guaranteed in the Constitution and enforced through a range of legislative, policy and administrative measures,” the Foreign Office spokesperson further said in reaction to the designation.

US brands South Asian Al-Qaeda, TTP militants as global terrorists

She added: “We have also noted with deep concern and disappointment that India, the biggest violator of religious freedom, has once again not been included in the State Department’s designation list despite clear recommendation by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).”

“This conspicuous omission raises serious questions about the credibility and transparency of the entire process and makes it a subjective and discriminatory exercise,” she added.

She pointed out that that international concerns over India’s treatment of religious minorities have been the subject of several hearings of the US Congress and reports of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Special Procedure Mandate Holders of the UN Human Rights Council, and reputed international NGOs. “We have conveyed our concerns to the US government regarding this designation,” she added.

To a question about the US State Department’s allegation on Pakistan, allegedly for having sanctuaries of TTP and other terror outfits, she rejected the allegations, saying that Pakistan is a country that has suffered enormously from terrorism for the last several years.

“Instability in Afghanistan and our region has created a situation that has resulted in the loss of lives of civilians and law enforcement officials. Pakistan is a victim of terrorism,” she said.

She added that there has been undeniable proof of India’s direct involvement in state-sponsored terrorism inside Pakistan because of which our society has suffered a lot. “The international community should take notice of this reality,” she added.

To another question about the Reko Diq project, she said that the matter is being considered at senior levels of government and the prime minister himself is taking interest in that. “We’re following the developments very closely and want a good outcome on all aspects of this issue,” she said.

About the government’s plan to import oil from Russia, she said that recently, State Minister for Petroleum Musadik Malik undertook a visit to Russia, where these issues were discussed.

“We are in touch with Russia and other partners regarding the purchase of crude oil and this is something which is at various levels of discussion,” she added.

Commenting on the media reports with regard to a new map issued in which Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has been shown as part of Afghanistan, she said: “We have seen some social media posts. Pakistan has clearly defined and internationally-recognised borders. Things that you may see on social media could be somebody’s wishful thinking and not the reality.”

About Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s three-day visit to Indonesia and Singapore, she said that the foreign minister attended the 15thBali Democracy Forum on Thursday.

At the Forum, the foreign minister stressed the need for democracies to reinvent themselves to be more responsive to the needs of their people, she said, adding that he also called for reform of international financial institutions and underscored the importance of democracies in developing countries to collaborate in responding to common challenges.

She said that the foreign minister has held a meeting with his counterpart from Indonesia RetnoMarsudi in which the two ministers reviewed the state of bilateral relations and agreed to further strengthen bilateral dialogue at all levels and pursue mutually-beneficial cooperation.

She added that the two foreign ministers signed a landmark MoU on the establishment of a Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) at the foreign minister level. The JMC will oversee mutually-beneficial cooperation and promote regular bilateral engagement, she added.

In Bali, she added that Bilawal also held a meeting with the Foreign Minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina,Dr Bisera Turkovic and expressed Pakistan’s desire to further strengthen our bilateral engagement with Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Furthermore, she added that the foreign minister also participated in the International Conference on Afghan Women Education.

About the recent attack on Pakistan Head of Mission inside the Embassy compound in Kabul, she said that Pakistan conveyed serious concerns over the incident to the Afghan authorities and beefed up the security of our diplomats and missions.

“We have also noted initial reports of some arrests and claims. We are in active contact with Afghan authorities and are following the situation closely. Pakistan expects a full investigation of the attack and exemplary punishment for the perpetrators as well as the planners,” she said.

She added that the attack of 2nd December is yet another reminder of the threat that terrorism poses to peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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