US gives 'national interest' waiver to Pak, Saudi Arabia on religious freedom violations blacklist

US gives

The Trump administration on Friday gave national interest waiver to four countries, including Pakistan, which were designated as countries of...

The Trump administration on Friday gave "national interest waiver" to four countries, including Pakistan, which were designated as "countries of particular concern" for having engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom.

The four countries - Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan - along with Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea and Sudan were last month named as "countries of particular concern" (CPC) by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for their gross violation of religious freedom.

Such a designation under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, would have automatically attracted sanctions and other punitive measures from the United States.

Prominent among these include designations or sanctions against individuals and organisations responsible for suppression of freedom in these countries.

However, these sanctions and designations can be done away with a waiver as required in the "important national interest of the United States" as per section 407 of International Religious Freedom Act.

In a federal notification, Pompeo gave national interest waiver to the four countries.

For other countries, including Burma and China, the existing restrictions like export control would continue, a federal notification said.

The Secretary of State also designated Comoros, Russia and Uzbekistan as "special watch list" countries for engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom, it said.

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