Pakistan rejects US blacklist for religious freedom violations

Source:AFP Published: 2018/12/12 21:33:41

Pakistan on Wednesday rejected Washington's decision to place it on a blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom, branding it "politically motivated" and defending its treatment of minorities.

"Pakistan does not need counsel by any individual country [on] how to protect the rights of its minorities," a statement from Pakistani Foreign Ministry said, adding that Islamabad "rejects" the designation.

The statement came a day after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that he had designated Pakistan among "countries of particular concern" in a congressionally mandated annual report.

It comes more than 40 days after a Pakistani court exonerated Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who had spent eight years on death row for blasphemy, which caused nationwide protest on her release.

She remains in protective custody in an unknown location after violent protests against her acquittal. Blasphemy is an inflammatory charge in Pakistan, and high-profile vigilante murders and mob lynchings have been carried out in the past.

Bibi is currently seeking asylum abroad. Her family claims her life will be in danger if she remains in Pakistan.

Pakistan recently charged a hardline cleric, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, with terrorism and sedition after he led violent protests against Bibi's acquittal.

The foreign ministry statement did not mention her, or the issue of blasphemy.

"Pakistan is a multi-religious and pluralistic society where people of diverse faiths and denominations live together," it said.

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