Myanmar stays on U.S. list of nations accused of violating religious freedom

Violet Powell
January 5, 2018

The US State Department on Thursday placed Pakistan on a Special Watch List for severe violations of religious freedom.

The State Department did not break down alleged violations of religious freedoms for each country on the lists.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson placed Pakistan on a watch list for "severe violations of religious freedom", the State Department announced Thursday.

"The protection of religious freedom is vital to peace, stability, and prosperity".

In an interview with Voice of America, McMaster said the USA president's tweet was not a blame-game rather it was America's effort to communicate clearly to Pakistan that "our relationship can no longer bear the weight of contradictions and that we have to really begin now to work together to stabilise Afghanistan".

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The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom said in a 2017 report "the Pakistani government continued to perpetrate and tolerate systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations". The majority Sunni Muslim nation is home to a number of diverse communities, but extremists routinely target Hindus, Christians, and Shia Muslims, as well as others. "That changed today", former Pakistani ambassador Husain Haqqani tweeted, referencing the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

On Monday, Trump reiterated USA concerns that Pakistan provides safe havens for militants, saying it had played US leaders for "fools".

After President Trump's lashed out at Pakistan in his first tweet of the year for the country's failure to act decisively to counter-terrorism and accused it of playing a double game, the US state department formally announced a halt in aid and security assistance to Pakistan.

Earlier this week, the White House said Islamabad would have to do more to combat terrorism to receive USA aid. "The U.S. should never shrink from calling out countries for such abuses". Pakistan, meanwhile, is eyeing a shift away from the United States: the country's central bank announced this week that it will be replacing the dollar with the yuan for bilateral trade with China, an indicator of warming ties between Beijing and Islamabad.

"It is our responsibility, as Americans, to speak for those with no voice", he commented Thursday. The legislation requires the president to make the designations each year, and that authority has been delegated to the secretary of state.

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