The protection of religious freedom is vital to peace and stability, the US said on Thursday.
New Delhi: In a major embarrassment for Islamabad, the United States on Thursday placed Pakistan on a 'Special Watch List' for severe violations of religious freedom.
The US Department of State said in a press statement, "In accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, the Secretary of State annually designates governments that have engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom as 'Countries of Particular Concern'. Today, the Department of State announces that the Secretary of State re-designated Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan as Countries of Particular Concern on December 22, 2017."
It added, "The Secretary also placed Pakistan on a Special Watch List for severe violations of religious freedom."
"The protection of religious freedom is vital to peace, stability, and prosperity. These designations are aimed at improving the respect for religious freedom in these countries... The United States remains committed to working with governments, civil society organisations, and religious leaders to advance religious freedom around the world," the statement further said.
The move comes days after US President Donald Trump had torn into Pakistan accusing it of giving nothing to the US but "lies and deceit" and providing "safe haven" to terrorists in return for USD 33 billion aid over the last 15 years.
On January 1, 2018, Trump in his first tweet of the year on New Year's day had said, "The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more."