The United States has redesignated Pakistan as a country of particular concern (CPC) over violations of religious freedom which includes China and Iran as well while the Taliban have been branded as an entity of particular concern.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, in a statement issued by his office on Wednesday, stated: “I am designating Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, the DPRK, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern for having engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.”
Pakistan was first placed on this list by administration of former president Donald Trump in December 2018, who then retained it on the list in 2020 as well. The Biden administration, which came to power in January this year, has retained the old list with two changes, adding Russia and removing Sudan from the CPC category.
As per the US Department of State, the president, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998, is required to review the status of religious freedom in every country in the world each year. They are to designate the countries where the governments have engaged in or tolerated “particularly severe violations of religious freedom” as a CPC.
The secretary of state put Algeria, Comoros, Cuba, and Nicaragua under the special watch list. These are the countries that do not meet all the criteria for being CPC but tolerated violations of religious freedom during the previous year. This is required under the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2016 (Wolf Act).
Each year the secretary of state also identifies Entities of Particular Concern (EPC), that are non-state actors that have engaged in particularly severe violations of religious freedom.
Secretary Blinken designated the Taliban along with Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin as EPC.
According to the US Department of State, the Taliban’s designation is based on information analyzed as of August 15, 2021.