Washington: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has urged Pakistan to release over 40 people from the religious minority community who have been serving jail term or facing execution on blasphemy charges in the country.
Releasing the annual report on the International Religious Freedom of the State Department for the year 2018, Pompeo stressed that Pakistan should do more to stop the abuse of blasphemy laws, especially after the release of Asia Bibi, who escaped a death sentence in a case that drew international scrutiny.
“In Pakistan, the Supreme Court acquitted Asia Bibi, a Catholic, of blasphemy, sparing her the death penalty after she spent nearly a decade in prison. However, more than 40 others remain jailed for life, or face execution on that very same charge,” the report said.
It added, “We continue to call for their release, and encourage the government to appoint an envoy to address the various religious freedom concerns.”
Bibi, a Catholic, was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 and sent to death row. Despite public protests against her, Bibi was acquitted on appeal last year and in May was able to leave for Canada.
In addition, the State Department added a special section on what US officials said are the “staggering scope of religious freedom abuses in Xinjiang” to this year’s report on China.
“In China, the government’s intense persecution of many faiths – Falun Gong practitioners, Christians, and Tibetan Buddhists among them – is the norm,” Pompeo said.