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Hold Pakistan accountable for violations of religious freedom: US Commission

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Washington: An independent US commission has asked the State Department to designate Pakistan and seven others as “countries of particular concern,” where governments “engage in or tolerate systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.”

Welcoming the release of State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said the next step is to promptly designate the worst violators as CPCs and to press for much-needed reforms in those countries.

The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA) provides a range of options for such action, from bilateral agreements to sanctions, it said noting the IRF Report is required by IRFA, the same law that established USCIRF.

“The just-released IRF Report leaves no doubt that the egregious nature of the violations in Pakistan warrant a CPC designation,” said USCIRF Chairman Robert P. George.

In July 2014, the State Department designated nine nations as CPCs under IRFA: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

USCIRF’s 2015 annual report, released in April, recommended that these countries be re-designated as CPCs, and also called for eight additional designations: Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, and Vietnam.

“USCIRF urges the State Department to continue the current nine CPC designations,” said George.

“We also urge the State Department to further expand its CPC list to reflect the severe violations occurring in other countries, such as Pakistan, which USCIRF has called the worst situation in the world for religious freedom for countries not currently designated by the US government as CPCs,” he said.

State Department’s 2014 IRF report said Pakistan “government’s general failure to investigate, arrest, or prosecute those responsible for religious freedom abuses promoted an environment of impunity that fostered intolerance and acts of violence, according to domestic and international human rights organizations.”

“Government policies did not afford equal protection to members of minority religious groups, and due to discriminatory legislation such as blasphemy laws and laws designed to marginalise the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, minorities often were afraid to profess freely their religious beliefs,” it said.

(Arun Kumar, IANS)

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Pakistan Exploits Situation In Jammu & Kashmir: India

India has accused Pakistan of cynically exploiting the situation in Jammu and Kashmir at the General Assembly

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Pakistan Exploits Situation In Jammu & Kashmir: India
Pakistan Exploits Situation In Jammu & Kashmir: India. flickr

India has accused Pakistan of cynically exploiting the situation in Jammu and Kashmir at the General Assembly while it was discussing an important issue.

“Such cynical attempts have failed in the past and do not find any resonance in this body,” Sandeep Kumar Bayyapu, a First Secretary in India’s UN Mission, said on Monday.

He was replying to a reference to Kashmir made by Pakistan’s Permanent Representative Maleeha Lodhi during a debate on the Right to Protect People against crimes against humanity.

“While we are having this serious debate for the first time in a decade on an issue that is of importance to all of us, we have witnessed that one delegation has, yet again, misused this platform to make an unwarranted reference to the situation in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir,” Bayyapu said.

“I would like to place on record and reiterate that the state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral and inalienable part of India. No amount of empty rhetoric from Pakistan will change this reality,” he added.

Lodhi had said that many of the victims of killings and “mass-blinding” are “in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir” and that they “have the further indignity of living under an illegal and alien occupation”.

Pakistan's Permanent Representative Maleeha Lodhi
Pakistan’s Permanent Representative Maleeha Lodhi. flickr

“Against this backdrop, calls for accountability would invariably smack of double standards and selectivity, especially when egregious crimes including killings and mass-blinding are being committed in full view of the international community,” she said.

However, Lodhi also said: “At its core, the responsibility to protect, is not a license to intervene in external situations, but, is instead, a universal principle of ‘non-indifference’, in keeping with historical context and cultural norms of respective settings.”

Also read: Women-Driven Rickshaw Program Creating Sensation in Pakistan

“We should also be mindful that the notion of ‘Responsibility to Protect’ does not become a mere re-enactment of the discredited ‘humanitarian interventions’ of the past,” she added. (IANS)