BY HAMZA AMEER
Islamabad– A US government panel has called to impose a ban on India and blacklist it over religious freedom and also remove the waiver provided to Pakistan that help it to evade consequences of such a designation.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom, a panel with congressional mandate has designated at least 15 nations under Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) in its 2023 report.
The CPC list includes Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Myanmar, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Russia, Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Syria, North Korea and Tajikistan.
Being on the CPC list does not mean the country has been designated. However, it does imply that the listed countries can be blacklisted and designation, consequences of which can reflect in terms of sanctions.
It is also to note here that while the designation on the CPC list of CIRF (Commission on International Religious Freedom) and its recommendations hold congressional mandate, the US administration does not always comply to the CIRF recommendations.
India has been on the list since 2019, but has never been designated.
Experts say that Washington fears that designating New Delhi could have serious impact and affects on the bilateral understanding between the two countries, especially in view of countering a mutual rival China.
However, the report criticises the government on treatment of religious minorities in India.
“The continued enforcement of discriminatory laws facilitated a culture of impunity for widespread campaigns of threats and violence by mobs and vigilante groups,” it said.
The report also calls for lifting the waivers given to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan
The report calls for re-designating Pakistan as a “country of particular concern” for what it terms as “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom”.
The report demands lifting of waiver that allows the Pakistani administration not to take legislatively mandated action under the designation.
The report suggests and calls for “entering into a binding agreement with the Pakistani government to encourage substantial steps to address religious freedom violations with benchmarks, including but not limited to: Religious blasphemy prisoners and anti-Ahmadiyya laws; until such repeal, enact reforms to make blasphemy a bailable offense, require evidence by accusers”.
It further emphasised on the demand for removal of requirements of self-identification of religion on identity documents and recommends reforming educational textbooks, curricula, and teacher training materials. (IANS)