ISLAMABAD -  Pakistan on Friday questioned the US designation of Pakistan in the “special watch list for severe violations of religious freedom.”

The foreign ministry said the report was not based on objective criteria. “This placement on special watch list is a new categorisation and we would be seeking clarification from the US regarding its rationale and implications,” Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said.

He added: “The designation overlooks the significant achievements of Pakistan in the area of human rights. Pakistan is firmly committed to the promotion and protection of human rights including the right of religious freedom, under its constitution.”

In his statement, Faisal said: “Wide-ranging legislative, institutional and administrative measures have been taken by the Government of Pakistan to ensure full implementation of guarantees afforded by the constitution.”

This week, the US State Department added Pakistan to a special watch list on the issue of religious freedom.

“In far too many places around the globe, people continue to be persecuted, unjustly prosecuted, or imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief,” Heather Nauert, State Department spokesperson, said in a statement.

“Today, a number of governments infringe upon individuals’ ability to adopt, change, or renounce their religion or belief,” she added.

However, Dr Faisal said the international community was aware of the incremental steps being taken by Pakistan that have brought about positive changes on ground.

“It is surprising that countries that have a well-known record of systematic persecution of religious minorities have not been included in the list. This reflects the double standards and political motives behind the listing and hence lacks credibility,” he said.

Pakistan, Faisal said, would continue to work with the international community to ensure that internationally-agreed standards on religious freedom were observed in Pakistan and the broader region.

Earlier, the US said it was suspending security assistance to Pakistan targeting the coalition support fund.

Other officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that the diplomatic corps was at work to control the damage.

“This is not an ordinary thing. We are looking for other options but we also want to keep the Pak-US ties intact,” said one official.

Another official said: “Pakistan will try to cool down the atmosphere and make efforts to placate the US. We still believe it is a misunderstanding [between Pakistan and the US].”

He said Pakistan was optimistic the US would return to normalcy towards Pakistan within weeks.

“Trump’s emotional attitude is not forever. We hope we will resolve the misunderstandings through talks,” the official added.

Former interior minister Rehman Malik said Trump’s tweet was “highly irresponsible and disrespectful”.

He said the Afghan refugees should be asked to leave Pakistan immediately.

Malik said the whole nation should unite against the US attitude and force them to acknowledge Pakistan’s sacrifices.

He said there were rumours that Pakistan’s ambassador to Canada had appreciated Trump’s tweet. “This must be investigated,” the minister added.

International affairs expert Dr Pervez Iqbal Cheema said the US had failed in Afghanistan and was putting the blame on Pakistan.

“The US has spent billions of dollars and deployed huge number of forces but the result in Afghanistan is zero. They have failed to bring peace in Afghanistan,” he said.

Cheema said Pakistan was not dependent on the US aid and must react like a sovereign nation.