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Pakistan Slams 'Arbitrary' U.S. Listing For Religious Freedom Violations

A Pakistani police commando stands guard outside a church during Christmas Mass in Lahore on December 25.

Pakistan has condemned being placed by the U.S. State Department on a list of countries violating religious freedom.

"Pakistan rejects the unilateral and arbitrary designation," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement late on December 24, calling the process "suspicious."

"This pronouncement is not only detached from ground realities...but also raises questions about the credibility and transparency of the entire exercise," the statement said.

On December 18, the State Department redesignated Pakistan along with Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and five other nations as Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated "systematic, ongoing, [and] egregious violations of religious freedom."

Muslim-majority Pakistan is often criticized for laws considered to be discriminatory against minorities, such as the death penalty for committing blasphemy.

Islamabad said the United States' listing highlighted a "selective targeting of countries," and was therefore "unlikely to be helpful to the professed cause of advancing religious freedom."

Pakistan was also enraged that the listing didn’t include neighboring India, where hundreds of thousands have been recently protesting against a new citizenship law thought to be discriminatory against Muslims.

The State Department once again also included Russia and Uzbekistan on a Special Watch List for governments that have engaged in or tolerated "severe violations of religious freedom."

Washington said "these designations underscore the United States' commitment to protect those who seek to exercise their freedom of religion or belief."

Based on reporting by dpa and