Washington: Two influential US lawmakers and more than two dozen eminent American NGOs and rights bodies have asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to designate Pakistan as a "country of particular concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act.
"The murders of Governor Salman Taseer and Federal
Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, as well as the `systematic, ongoing
and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief`
described in the 2011 Annual Report of the US Commission on
International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), lead us to
respectfully urge you to designate Pakistan as a `country of
particular concern` (CPC) under the International Religious
Freedom Act (IRFA)," the NGOs said in a letter to Clinton.
"Further, the US should supplement the designation by
working behind the scenes to stress to the Pakistani
authorities the value of advancing religious freedom in order
to undermine extremism and terrorist sanctuaries," said the
letter dated May 17.
The State Department is likely to release its `country
of particular concern` (CPC) list before Memorial Day. If this
happens, it will be the first time the Obama administration
has designated CPCs.
"It`s obvious to anyone who follows Pakistan that it
is responsible for systematic, ongoing, and egregious
religious freedom violations against Muslims and non-Muslims,"
said Leonard Leo, US Commission on International Religious
Freedom (USCIRF) Chair.
"As documented in our 2011 Annual Report, it
undoubtedly meets the `country of particular concern` threshold and should be designated a CPC.
"Pakistan is arguably the most glaring omission to the
State Departments CPC list, as the government is both
responsible for and tolerates egregious violations of
religious freedom," he said.
"The events of recent weeks make clear the need to
press the Pakistanis to divorce themselves from violent
extremists groups and to enforce human rights and the rule of
law. The CPC designation could help do just that," Leo said.
A similar appeal was made by Congressmen Heath Shuler
and Trent Franks, co-chairs of the House Religious Freedom
"We write today to respectfully urge you to designate
Pakistan as a `country of particular concern` (CPC) under
the International Religious Freedom Act for `particularly
severe` violations of religious freedom," they said in a
letter dated May 4.
"The brutal murders of Governor Salman Taseer and
Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, both individuals whom you
knew personally, tragically and graphically demonstrate that
the Pakistani government must do more to protect religious
freedom and fight violent religious extremism," they