Reportedly the US administration placed Pakistan on its blacklist due to the allegations for lack of religious freedom. US Secretary of state Mike Pompeo in a congressionally mandated annual report designated Pakistan among ‘countries of particular concern’. In his report last year he had placed Pakistan on a special watch list. However following a strong protest by Pakistan against the move which it termed ‘unilateral and politically motivated’ the US government has announced exemption for Pakistan from sanctions saying it would serve the US interests. It should not have happened in the first place.

This backtracking for the claimed US interests also amply testifies to the political motives behind blacklisting Pakistan as rightly pointed out by the spokesman of the ministry of foreign affairs. It was surely a ploy to put further pressure on Pakistan which backfired due to the determined and firm response by Pakistan. The timing of the report by Secretary of State when Pakistan was in the process of negotiating a new loan facility with the IMF and was also engaged in efforts to have itself extricated from the grey list of FATF also revealed the malice characterising the US move.

Blacklisting Pakistan was also a hypocritical action in view of the fat that the US spared India from being designated as ‘country of particular concern’ in spite of continuous reports of persecution of Muslims and Christian communities as a consequence of the communal politics of the ruling party BJP under the stewardship of Narendra Modi. It also remains oblivious to the blatant violation of human rights in Indian occupied Kashmir and unabated killings of the Kashmiris at the hands of the Indian security forces. Similarly it has exhibited criminal indifference to the atrocities committed against the Palestinians by the Israreli forces. Their humanitarianism ends where their commercial and strategic interests are involved. Both Israel and India are being rewarded for furthering US commercial and strategic interests in their respective regions. India is a strategic partner of the US in this region assisting her with regard to the ‘contain china policy’. The US is looking the other way to the atrocities being committed against Kashmiris and sponsorship of state terrorism by India in the neighbouring countries, particularly Pakistan as a reward for doing its bidding in the region.

The US since the announcement of new policy on Afghanistan and Asia by President Trump has been unleashing coercive tactics against Pakistan like termination of financial assistance and playing an instrumental role in grey listing of Pakistan by the FATF. In early April this year the FATF after week-long deliberations had adopted a motion moved by US to have Pakistan grey listed which was usually supported by her western allies like Britain, France and Germany. The latest move apart from political consequences could have also triggered economic repercussions for Pakistan.

The constitution of Pakistan guarantees religious freedom and equal rights for minorities and the successive governments at the official level have invariably taken steps to ensure those freedoms. There might be some deviations at the social level because of the existing social fault lines but it has never been the state policy to put curbs on religious freedom. Such fault lines exist in every society in varying degrees. The rise of anti-Islam sentiments in the western countries including US, attacks on mosques and members of the Muslim community testify to that reality. But those actions cannot be taken as a state policy and used as a ploy to malign and pressurise a country to achieve political objectives.

In fact Pakistan has taken concrete and credible measures recently to address those fault lines improving the ambience of religious freedoms like the establishment of National Human Rights Commission and National Action Plan for Human Rights among other things. It is pertinent to point out that the EU which is very sensitive to the religious freedoms renewed GS Plus status for Pakistan in January his year. It was indeed a consequence of the EU satisfaction in regards to the legislative and institutional measures taken to improve human rights regime and religious freedoms.

The antics adopted by the US vitiate the spirit of cooperation between her and Pakistan in regards to finding an amicable negotiated solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. Now that President Trump after the failure of his coercive action has come down to asking for Pakistan’s help in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table acknowledging her importance in that regard as reflected in his letter to the Prime Minister Imran Khan, he needs to revisit US posture towards Pakistan and the tactics being employed to undermine her strategic and economic interests. Partnerships are built on the basis of mutual interest and trust and not by harming the interests of partner.

Pakistan has given unparalleled sacrifices as a front line state in the war against terrorism besides unfurling efforts at the bilateral as well multilateral level to find Afghan-led and Afghan owned solution to the conflict in that country. Those efforts stemmed from her unswerving belief that peace in Afghanistan was crucial to peace in Pakistan and eradicating the menace of terrorism and not for extracting any financial benefit from the US except for compensation for the services rendered in facilitating the US. Pakistan launched indiscriminate action against all the terrorist entities in North Waziristan and has also taken unilateral measures to fence the entire Pak-Afghan border and building of forts and check-posts to prevent cross-border movement of the terrorists.

It has all along been a willing partner in supporting the US for restoring peace in Afghanistan. The civilian and military leadership has repeatedly reiterated that commitment besides making innumerable conciliatory overtures to the Afghan government. Under the circumstances looking askance at Pakistan and doubting its commitment in facilitating reconciliation in Afghanistan as well as accusing her of providing sanctuaries to the terrorist outfits is extremely regrettable. The road to peace in Afghanistan goes through Pakistan and if US wants her unqualified support and cooperation in accomplishing the objective of bringing peace in Afghanistan and ensuring her honourable exit from that country. It has to abandon her hostile actions against it and create an ambience of mutual trust.

The writer is a freelance columnist.

The US since the announcement of new policy on Afghanistan and Asia by President Trump has been unleashing coercive tactics against Pakistan like termination of financial assistance and playing an instrumental role in grey listing of Pakistan by the FATF.