by our correspondent in Dhaka
Pakistan and Myanmar are among those listed for “religious freedom violators,” while neighbouring India’s status has been downgraded.
On Pakistan, it noted the condition has deteriorated with blasphemy and anti-Ahmedia laws have forced minority faiths to convert to Islam.
“The systematic enforcement of blasphemy and anti-Ahmadia laws, and authorities’ failure to address forced conversions of religious minorities — including Hindus, Christians, and Sikhs — to Islam, severely restricted freedom of religion or belief,” added the 2020 report noting that religious freedom conditions across Pakistan had continued to trend negatively.
The report announced by US Secretary of State Michale on Monday noted that nearly 80 individuals remained imprisoned for blasphemy in Pakistan, with at least half were either sentenced to life or death.
Junaid Hafeez was given the death sentence last year after spending five years in solitary confinement for allegedly posting blasphemous content online, while at the same time there were “some high-profile acquittals” in Pakistan.
India was categorised as a “Tier 2 country” in 2019, but this the list did not name India among countries of particular concern.
The commission’s report noted that last year, religious freedom conditions in India experienced a drastic turn downward and the BJP government allowed violence against minorities besides tolerated hate speech as well as inciting violence.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which recommends the designations, had downgraded India to its lowest ranking of “countries of particular concern” (CPC) in its 2020 report, issued in April.
Michael Pompeo also named China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Nigeria, North Korea, Myanmar and Eritrea as “countries of particular Concern” under its International Religious Freedom Act.
The statement accused these countries of “engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.”
Bangladesh is hosting at least 1.1 million minority Rohingya Muslims who fled persecution in Myanmar. They have been victims of a genocide as part of ethnic cleansing.
Secretary Pompeo also placed the Comoros, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Russia on a special watch list for governments that engage in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom”.