Burial of victims of a suicide attack on the Methodist Bethel Church in Quetta. Pakistan, on Sunday 17 December in which at least 9 people were killed. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)
Burial of victims of a suicide attack on the Methodist Bethel Church in Quetta, Pakistan, on Sunday 17 December, in which at least nine people were killed. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

The US State Department has placed Pakistan on a “Special Watch List” for severe violators of religious freedom, it announced yesterday (4 January) with the publication of its annual list of ‘Countries of Particular Concern’.

The announcement comes as the US government cuts security aid to Pakistan, saying the country has not done enough to combat terrorism.

The ten countries on the CPC list – for “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom” – remain the same as last year: China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Sudan remains on the list, despite the US’s decision last year to end sanctions against the country.

Chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Daniel Mark, expressed “surprise and disappointment” that Pakistan was not added to the list.

Pakistan continues to harass its religious minorities, has state-sanctioned discrimination against groups such as the Ahmadis, and tolerates extra-judicial violence in the guise of opposing blasphemy,” he said.

Other countries that should have been included, according to Mark, were the Central African Republic, Nigeria, Russia, Syria and Vietnam.

In October a group of influential US senators had called on the US State Department to add Pakistan to its list of CPCs, but a Pakistani journalist, Huma Yusuf, said it was “unlikely that the designation would motivate Pakistan to check the blatant violations of religious minorities’ rights”.

Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List – of the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to be a Christian – places Pakistan at number 4. The new annual ranking is to be released next week, on 10 January.