Washington: Expressing concern over sharp deterioration of religious freedom in Pakistan, influential US lawmakers Tuesday joined the call to designate it as a "country of particular concern" on international religious freedom.
"Pakistan has serious problem (on religious freedom)," said Congressman H Smith, Chairman of the Global Human Rights Subcommittee of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee, during a Congressional hearing.
He was joined by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher on expressing concern over deteriorating religious freedom situation in Pakistan during the Congressional hearing on 'The Global Crisis of Religious Freedom'.
Alleging that blasphemy laws are being used in Pakistan to justify religious persecution, Smith said he raised issue of religious freedom of minorities in particular blasphemy law in Pakistan with its Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif when he came to the Capitol Hill for meeting lawmakers last week.
"A designation (CPC) ought to be done without any other consideration of foreign policy," he said as he and Rohrabacher supported the demand of US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) that countries like Pakistan and Vietnam must be designated as a CPC.
"Pakistan has been protected (by US) for some other motives by our government over these last 25-30 years," Rohrabacher said.
"The monstrous repression of the people of Pakistan who have different religion is very demonstrable. It is horrendous that that (religious persecution) is going on and we still provide weapons to Pakistan," he said.
The USCIRF chairman, Robert George, described Pakistan to have the worst religious freedom situation of the countries not currently designated as a CPC.
David Saperstein, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom in Department of State, in his remarks condemned Pakistan for its blasphemy and apostasy laws.
"I agree with you about the CPCs. I am pushing very hard to revamp the way we do this. I do not think, we are going to have this problem in the future. I think, within short period of time that would become clear," Saperstein told lawmakers when asked by why countries like Pakistan were not being designated as CPC by the State Department.
There is need to standardise and regularise the CPC process, he added.
"We urge governments to uphold their obligations to protect the human rights of refugees and migrants in their countries and take steps to prevent them from facing official harassment or discrimination on account of their religion," Saperstein said in his testimony.