Pakistan Current Affairs

US puts Pakistan on Special Watch List for severe violations of religious freedom

The United States has placed Pakistan on ‘Special Watch List’ for “severe violations” of religious freedom. It is only country to be put under the newly-formed list.

Moreover, US also re-designated about 10 countries as ‘Countries of Particular Concern’ under its International Religious Freedom (IRF) Act. They are Burma (Myanmar), China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Key Facts

As per US, Pakistan was placed in this list because it continues to harass its religious minorities, tolerates extra-judicial violence in the guise of opposing blasphemy. Moreover it has state-sanctioned discrimination against groups such as Ahmadis. According to research, Pakistan is one of countries with most restrictions on religion.

Special Watch List

The Special Watch List is for countries that engage in or tolerate severe violations of religious freedom but may not rise to level of ‘Countries of Particular Concern’ (CPC). It is new category created by Frank R Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2016. The designations are aimed at improving respect for religious freedom in these countries.

The Special Watch List designation to countries is step below designating it as CPC, which automatically imposes economic and political sanctions. The Frank R Wolf International Religious Freedom Act amended International Religious Freedom (IRF) Act to require President to designate ‘Special Watch List’ of countries deemed not to meet all of CPC criteria but who engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom.

Under the IRF Act of 1998, US Secretary of State annually designates governments that have engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom as CPC. These designations are aimed at improving the respect for religious freedom in these countries.

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WHO declared Gabon as polio-free country

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Gabon a “polio-free country”. This comes after lack of new reported or suspected cases in the central African country in recent times. But the UN health agency has recommended taking necessary steps to continue monitoring for possible signs of the disease.

Polio

Polio is highly-infectious viral disease caused by the poliovirus. It mainly affects young children and can result in permanent paralysis. The virus is transmitted from person-to-person. It mainly spreads through the faecal-oral route (e.g. contaminated water or food). After entering body, it multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and can cause paralysis.

Initial symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck, and pain in the limbs. In some cases, it causes permanent paralysis. There is no cure for polio virus, it can only be prevented by immunization.

Global Polio Prevalence

Cases of polio have decreased by 99% since 1988, when it was endemic in 125 countries and 350,000 cases were recorded worldwide. Now the disease is endemic is prevalent only in two South Asian countries Afghanistan and Pakistan, where WHO recorded four cases—two in each country this year. In 2016, there were 37 cases globally.

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