United States targets 10 countries over religious freedom violations

06 January, 2018, 03:07 | Author: Jeffery Armstrong
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The U.S. state department said on Thursday that it was suspending at least $1 billion in assistance to Pakistan until it takes further action against Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network militant groups.

In an interview with Voice of America, McMaster said the United States president's tweet was not a blame-game rather it was America's effort to communicate clearly to Pakistan that "our relationship can no longer bear the weight of contradictions and that we have to really begin now to work together to stabilise Afghanistan". According to US officials, two main categories will be affected; Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and Coalition Support Funds (CSF).

In all, the U.S. State Department said it had re-designated 10 countries over violations of religious freedoms.

Placement on the watch list is a step below being a "country of particular concern" which can lead to sanctions a designation handed down to China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

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"The Secretary also placed Pakistan on a Special Watch List for severe violations of religious freedom", the statement added.

This has come in the backdrop of US President Donald Trump criticising Pakistan for not doing enough to combat terrorism, in a strongly-worded tweet.

"This placement on special watch list is a new categorisation and we would be seeking clarification from the United States regarding its rationale and implications", a statement from Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

"These designations are aimed at improving the respect for religious freedom in these countries", said the State Department in a statement that described the protection of religious freedom as being vital to peace, stability and prosperity.

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"It is surprising that countries that have a well-known record of systematic persecution of religious minorities have not been included in the list", the statement added.

"At least 40 people are now sentenced to death or are serving life sentences for blasphemy", they wrote. "Additionally, provincial textbooks with discriminatory content against minorities remain a significant concern".

"However, I am troubled that Vietnam was again not designated this year", he said.

Pakistan has been known to be especially harsh for people from religions other than Islam. "The U.S. should never shrink from calling out countries for such abuses".

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