United States strikes another blow to Pakistan

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A statement from the state department says, "The Secretary also placed Pakistan on a Special Watch List for severe violations of religious freedom".

The department re-designated the countries under the International Religious Freedom Act and placed Pakistan on a special watch list for "severe violations of religious freedom".

The State Department raised the issue of religious intolerance in Pakistan in a 2016 report, and said US officials have met with various Pakistani officials to discuss ways to combat violence and intolerance against religious minorities.

"These designations are aimed at improving the respect for religious freedom in these countries", the statement said, while adding that it welcomed moves by "several designated countries" to improve their respect for religious freedom.

A country is labeled as a CPC after it engages in "systemic, ongoing, [and] egregious" violations of religious liberty.

In a seething series of tweets, Pakistan's foreign minister ripped into Trump's accusation that Islamabad has double-crossed the United States in Afghanistan, noting that Pakistan "went through a bloodbath after blindly trusting Washington". These nations are accused of having "engaged in or tolerated egregious violations of religious freedom". The abrupt pivot is opening Pakistan up to increased scrutiny - something reflected by Thursday's religious freedom designation.

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The list has been released each year since 1998 under the International Religious Freedom Act.

The State Department announced that it's placing the South Asian nation on a special watch list, pursuant to 2016 legislation.

This has come in the backdrop of US President Donald Trump criticising Pakistan for not doing enough to combat terrorism, in a strongly-worded tweet.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) praised the White House for making religious freedom designations a priority but was disappointed that Vietnam was not designated as a CPC. "Given the strong stance that President Trump has taken on Pakistan recently, the failure to designate Pakistan as a CPC this year comes as a surprise and disappointment", Mark said.

USA relations with Pakistan have been particularly strained in recent days. "The Vietnamese people continue to have their religious freedom and other human rights violated".

"The governments that have been designated as CPCs are subject to "Presidential Actions", such as sanctions, which may include economic or political measures directed against a government to encourage it to improve the state of religious freedom in its country", the spokesperson said in response to a question.

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