WASHINGTON: Two influential US lawmakers and more than two dozen eminent American NGOs and rights bodies have asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to designate Pakistan as a “country of particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act.
“The murders of Governor Salmaan Taseer and Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, as well as the ‘systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief’ described in the 2011 Annual Report of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), lead us to respectfully urge you to designate Pakistan as a ‘country of particular concern’ (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA),” the NGOs said in a letter to Clinton.
“Further, the US should supplement the designation by working behind the scene to stress to Pakistani authorities the value of advancing religious freedom in order to undermine extremism and terrorist sanctuaries,” said the letter dated May 17.
The State Department is likely to release its ‘country of particular concern’ (CPC) list before the Memorial Day. If this happens, it will be the first time the Obama administration has designated CPCs.
Congressmen Heath Shuler and Trent Franks, co-chairs of the House Religious Freedom Caucus, made a similar appeal. “We write today to respectfully urge you to designate Pakistan as a ‘country of particular concern’ (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act for ‘particularly severe’ violations of religious freedom,” they said in a letter dated May 4.