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US keeps Pakistan as 'Country of Particular Concern' for religious freedom
The United States has kept Pakistan's designation as a 'Country of Particular Concern' as part of its annual International Religious Freedom Report.
Islamabad: The United States has kept Pakistan's designation as a 'Country of Particular Concern' as part of its annual International Religious Freedom Report. The report reviewed the state of religious freedoms in some 200 countries and territories around the world.
In its 2000-page report, the section about Pakistan pointed to the religious violence, religious discrimination and persecution, and the failure of law enforcers and judiciary to adhere to basic evidentiary standards, especially in blasphemy cases, Samaa TV reported.
The report noted that on November 15, 2021, the Secretary of State had redesignated Pakistan as a "Country of Particular Concern" (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, as amended, for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom and announced a waiver of the sanctions that accompany designation in the national interests of the United States. Pakistan was first designated as a CPC in 2018, it said, Samaa TV reported.
The report cited the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) Center for Social Justice's (CSJ) report that authorities had charged and imprisoned some 84 individuals in 2021 for blasphemy, compared with the 199 CSJ reported in 2020, when NGOs reported an uptick in blasphemy cases lodged amid heightened sectarian tension.
At least 16 people accused of blasphemy around the country during the year received death sentences, but none were carried out.
The report further said that non-governmental organizations (NGOs), legal observers, and religious minority representatives have continued to raise concerns regarding the failure of lower courts to adhere to basic evidentiary standards in blasphemy cases.
They also raised concerns about the slow pace of adjudicating these cases, which led to some suspects remaining in detention for years as they waited for their initial trial or appeals, and some convicted people spending years in prison before the higher courts overturned their convictions and freed them for lack of evidence, the report said, Samaa TV reported.
Throughout the year, unidentified individuals assaulted and killed Christians, Ahmadis, Sikhs, Sunnis, Shia, and Hindus in attacks sources believed to be religiously motivated. The attackers' relationship with organized terrorist groups was often unknown.