N. Korea Re-designated by USA for Violating Religious Freedom

N. Korea Re-designated by USA for Violating Religious Freedom

Pakistan said on Friday that it "rejects the United States designation" and that the report is "not based on objective criteria". According to USA officials, two main categories will be affected; Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and Coalition Support Funds (CSF).

The State Department on Thursday announced Pakistan had been added to a "special watch list" due to its treatment of religious minorities within the country's borders.

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert announced Pakistan's placement on the list as well as the re-designation of 10 other countries as Countries of Particular Concern, via a press release Thursday.

Earlier this week, Pakistan hit back at the U.S. after President Donald Trump accused the country of providing a safe haven for "terrorists".

The United States has placed Pakistan on a special watch list for "severe violations" of religious freedom. Pakistan was the only country in the new category. "Given the strong stance that President Trump has taken on Pakistan recently, the failure to designate Pakistan as a CPC this year comes as a surprise and disappointment".

The law was passed during the Clinton administration as part of an effort to make religious freedom a key objective of us foreign policy.

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"We recognize that several designated countries are working to improve their respect for religious freedom; we welcome these initiatives and look forward to continued dialogue", the statement said.

A bipartisan group of six senators, including Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), asked Tillerson in October to make Pakistan a CPC, citing systematic religious oppression. Punishment ranges from life in prison to the death sentence for a range of charges, including "defiling the Prophet Muhammad". "Additionally, provincial textbooks with discriminatory content against minorities remain a significant concern". Royce, did, however, say he wanted Vietnam to be on the list.

The chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Ed Royce, (R-CA) said the redesignation of Myanmar as a country of particular concern is particularly appropriate, given its military's ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims.

"However, I am troubled that Vietnam was again not designated this year".

Pakistan has been known to be especially harsh for people from religions other than Islam. "The U.S. should never shrink from calling out countries for such abuses", Royce said.

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