Along with the Jan. 4 release of the annual list of “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPCs), the U.S. Department of State also announced the first “Special Watch List” (SWL). And Pakistan is the lone country on the new list.
The CPCs list is required by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 and designates governments that have engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom. Ten countries were re-designated as CPCs — Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
However, it was the addition of Pakistan on the SWL that gained the most attention.
SWL is a new category created by the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2016. It is for countries that engage in or tolerate severe violations of religious freedom but may not rise to the level of CPC, according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
Former Congressman Frank Wolf, for whom the new SWL designation is named, said the designation for Pakistan is “an important step.”
“Pakistan is a signatory of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, but they have treated the responsibilities associated with it casually and with no consequences,” he said.
“It is my hope that this will spur Pakistan to initiate long needed reforms.”
For the past 15 years, USCIRF has recommended that the U.S. government add Pakistan to the CPCs list for its egregious human rights and religious freedom violations against Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Shi’a Muslims. (RNS, TAB)