Pakistan hits back at US over religious freedoms
Pakistan has condemned the United States for placing it on a list of countries violating religious freedoms, calling the designation a "politically motivated pronouncement."
According to Press TV, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that preserving the rights of minorities was a "cardinal principle" of the constitution.
"Pakistan rejects the US State Department’s unilateral and politically motivated pronouncement."
Separately, Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari said Pakistan's inclusion on the list was "pure political blackmailing" and an attempt to pressure Pakistan to fulfill Washington's objectives in Afghanistan.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added Pakistan to the list of "countries of particular concern," which have tolerated abuses against religious groups.
In October, Pakistan’s top court overturned the conviction of a Christian woman facing execution for blasphemy in a landmark case.
Last year the United States also put Pakistan on a watch-list of countries that violate religious freedom.
The vast majority of Pakistan’s 208 million people are Muslims, with minorities accounting for about four percent of the population, including Christians, Hindus and Sikhs.
The latest move by Pompeo threatens to further worsen the already fragile relations between Islamabad and Washington.
US President Donald Trump and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan have engaged in a bitter exchange over Afghanistan in recent weeks.
In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Khan said his country would never share a relationship with the United States if the latter continues to treat the country as its "hired gun."
Too, the Pakistani premier in a series of tweets last month accused Trump of making Pakistan a scapegoat to cover Washington’s failure in Afghanistan.
"Instead of making Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures, the US should do a serious assessment of why, despite 140,000 NATO troops plus 250,000 Afghan troops & reportedly $1 trillion spent on war in Afghanistan, the Taliban today are stronger than before."
Khan had hit back at Trump following his remarks that Pakistani authorities knew former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's location prior to his killing by US troops in a raid inside Pakistan in 2011.