US religious liberty commission recommends 'binding agreement' with Pakistan to halt abuses

A young girl lights a candle at a Marian grotto in Pakistan. Credit: Magdalena Wolnik.

(CNA) The US Commission on International Religious Freedom issued a report Tuesday recommending a “binding agreement” between the United States and Pakistan, with the goal of encouraging Pakistan to improve its treatment of religious minorities.

Laws against blasphemy in Muslim-majority Pakistan have led to death sentences for many religious minorities, and the extrajudicial killing by mobs of many more accused of blasphemy.

This includes Servant of God Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic politician from Pakistan who the Taliban killed in 2011.

The US State Department has designated Pakistan a “country of particular concern” since 2018 for its record on religious freedom violations.

CPC designations can carry sanctions under U.S. law, but in 2018 and 2019 the State Department granted waivers to Pakistan that exempt them from any meaningful actions related to the CPC designation, USCIRF says.

USCIRF— which makes policy recommendations but does not create laws— recommended that the US set defined, concrete benchmarks for Pakistan to provide “greater clarity to a path off the CPC list and help improve religious freedom conditions, especially for the country’s religious minorities.”

Such a “binding agreement” to encourage countries to take steps to get off the CPC list has been used only once, which the US entered into with Vietnam in 2005 and which led to Vietnam’s removal from the list. - Catholic News Agency