Pakistan on Tuesday rejected the US State Department's unilateral and arbitrary re-designation to its list of "countries of particular concerns" under the religious freedom report announced on 20 December 2019 and also deplored the 'conspicuous' omission of India from the list.
"This pronouncement is not only detached from ground realities of Pakistan but also raises questions about the credibility and transparency of the entire exercise", said Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui while commenting on the State Department annual report.
She said that the designation is reflective of selective targeting of countries, and thus unlikely to be helpful to the professed cause of advancing religious freedom.
"Pakistan is a multi-religious and pluralistic country where people of all faiths enjoy religious freedom under constitutional protections, she said.
All branches - the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary - have made concerted efforts to ensure that all citizens of Pakistan, irrespective of faith, denomination, caste or creed, can profess and practice their religion in full freedom, she said.
She stated that the higher judiciary of the country has given landmark judgements directing on ensuring the sanctity and security of places of worship of minorities.
"Pakistan has also engaged with the international community, including the United States, for better understanding on religious freedom issues", she said, adding that earlier this year, Senator Samuel Brownback, the US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, was welcomed in Pakistan for dialogue to advance the mutual objectives of religious freedom globally. It is regrettable that this constructive engagement has been overlooked, she added.
The subjectivity and bias of the State Department's designations are further illustrated by the conspicuous omission of India, the biggest violator of religious freedom, she asserted.
Farooqui said that the US Congress has held two hearings and more than seventy US legislators have publicly expressed concerns over India's treatment of Kashmiris and prolonged suppression of their fundamental rights in the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K).
She said that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, the UN Secretary General in New York, and several European Parliaments have similarly expressed their concerns. In today's India, people belonging to minority communities are being lynched, persecuted and killed with impunity.
The National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the recently adopted Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) are the latest examples of the Indian government's actions to discriminate against people and evidently pave the way towards cleansing of society on the basis of religion, she added.
"Challenges to religious freedom are a global concern and only cooperative efforts can help address them", she said.
For its part, she said that Pakistan has also raised concerns over growing trend of Islamophobia in many Western countries including the United States. Working together in an environment of trust and understanding is the best way forward in realizing the objective of promoting and protecting religious freedom.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2019