Islamabad rejects US Designation Pakistan Special Watch List for religious freedom
By.Asghar Ali Mubarak Islamabad:Pakistan rejects the US designation of Pakistan in the “Special Watch List for severe violations of religious freedom.” The report is not based on objective criteria. This placement on special watch list is a new categorization and we would be seeking clarification from the US regarding its rationale and implications.
The designation overlooks the significant achievements of Pakistan in the area of human rights. Pakistan is firmly committed to the promotion and protection of human rights including the right of religious freedom, under its Constitution. Wide ranging legislative, institutional and administrative measures have been taken by the Government of Pakistan to ensure full implementation of guarantees afforded by the Constitution. The international community is aware of the incremental steps being taken by Pakistan that have brought about positive changes on ground. It is surprising that countries that have a well known record of systematic persecution of religious minorities have not been included in the list. This reflects the double standards and political motives behind the listing and hence lacks credibility.
Pakistan will continue to work with the international community to ensure that internationally agreed standards on religious freedom are observed in Pakistan and the broader region.
We are engaged with the US Administration on the issue of security cooperation and await further details. Impact of US’ decision on pursuit of common objectives is also likely to emerge more clearly in due course of time. It, however, needs to be appreciated that Pakistan has fought the war against terrorism largely from its own resources which has cost over $120 billion in 15 years. We are determined to continue to do all it takes to secure the lives of our citizens and broader stability in the region.
We believe that Pakistan-US cooperation in fighting terrorism has directly served US national security interests as well as the larger interests of international community. It has helped decimate Al-Qaeda and fight other groups who took advantage of ungoverned spaces, a long porous border and posed a common threat to peace. Through a series of major counter-terrorism operations Pakistan cleared all these areas resulting in elimination of organized terrorist presence leading to significant improvement in security in Pakistan. Our efforts towards peace are awaiting reciprocal actions from the Afghan side in terms of clearance of vast stretches of ungoverned spaces on the Afghan side, bilateral border management, repatriation of Afghan Refugees, controlling poppy cultivation, drug trafficking and initiating Afghan-led and owned political reconciliation in Afghanistan.
Working towards enduring peace requires mutual respect and trust along with patience and persistence. Emergence of new and more deadly groups such as Daesh in Afghanistan call for enhancing international cooperation. Arbitrary deadlines, unilateral pronouncements and shifting goalposts are counterproductive in addressing common threats.