A day after the White House threatened to cancel aid to Pakistan, the US Department of State has put the country on a special watch list for "severe violations of religious freedom".
Pakistan has faced global condemnation over its treatment of religious minorities, especially Christians, Ahmadi Muslims and Hindus.
An official statement from department spokesperson Heather Nauert also said the country had "re-designated Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan as Countries of Particular Concern on December 22, 2017".
"The United States remains committed to working with governments, civil society organizations, and religious leaders to advance religious freedom around the world", it said.
The state department said that the decision reflects Trump administration's frustration that Pakistan has not done enough against these two groups which have long sanctuaries in Pakistan to launch attacks in neighboring Afghanistan killing the USA and other forces.
The United States Secretary of State annually designates governments, which have undertaken or allowed measures to violate religious freedom, as "Countries of Particular Concern" observing the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
The law was passed during the Clinton administration as part of an effort to make religious freedom a key objective of us foreign policy.
"This placement on special watch list is a new categorisation and we would be seeking clarification from the U.S. regarding its rationale and implications", a statement from Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
President Donald Trump said on Monday the USA had "foolishly" given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid in the last 15 years and had received nothing in return but "lies and deceit".
A bipartisan group of six senators, including Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), asked Tillerson in October to make Pakistan a CPC, citing systematic religious oppression. Royce, did, however, say he wanted Vietnam to be on the list.
"It is our responsibility, as Americans, to speak for those with no voice", he commented Thursday. "The re-designation of Burma as a country of particular concern is particularly appropriate, given the Burmese military's ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims".
"However, I am troubled that Vietnam was again not designated this year. The U.S. should never shrink from calling out countries for such abuses", Royce said.
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Trump had reasoned that the U.S. is "starting to develop a much better relationship with Pakistan and its leaders". But even if Pakistan did everything the US asked, it's highly uncertain this would yield stability in Afghanistan.
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