‘Designate Pak as country of particular concern’
Last Updated: Wednesday, May 18, 2011, 15:47
  
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 Caucus.

"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 wrote.

PTI


First Published: Wednesday, May 18, 2011, 15:47


comments powered by Disqus