US panel wants Pakistan blacklisted for ‘violating’ religious freedom
WASHINGTON: A US Congress-mandated commission advised the government on Wednesday to blacklist Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan for alleged violation of religious freedom and beliefs.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom also sought the removal of India from the government’s list of “countries of particular concern” following “significant” improvements in that country since the defeat of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2004 polls.
The State Department annually blacklists countries for alleged religious freedom violations based on recommendations from the commission, whose 10 members are jointly appointed by President George W. Bush and Congress.
Last year, the department added Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam to the blacklist, which already included China, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea and Sudan.
Countries added to the department’s blacklist could face government sanctions on various fronts.
Commission chairman Preeta Bansal, in announcing the panel’s findings at a news conference Wednesday, said the governments of Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan “have engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”
The commission also included Bangladesh on a “watchlist” of countries where conditions do not rise to the statutory level that requires blacklisting but are of enough concern to warrant “close monitoring.”
Those already on the watchlist are Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia and Nigeria.
Georgia and Laos have been removed from the watchlist this year, the commission said.
Bansal also said that for the first time, the commission had received a formal invitation from the Chinese government to visit China.In a letter containing the commission’s recommendations to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Bansal said: “We hope to work with you and your staff as we negotiate a commission visit to China this year.”
The commission slammed the Chinese government “for pervasive and severe violations of religious freedom and related human rights.
“Every religious community in China is subject to restrictions, discrimination and state control,” it said. afp