WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday urged Pakistan to do more to stop the abuse of blasphemy laws after the release of Asia Bibi, who escaped a death sentence in a case that drew international scrutiny.
Releasing an annual report on international religious freedom, Pompeo estimated that more than 40 others were serving life sentences or facing execution for blasphemy in Pakistan.
“We continue to call for their release and encourage the government to appoint an envoy to address religious freedom concerns,” Pompeo said.
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.
Pompeo also strongly criticized US adversaries Iran and China, pointing to Beijing’s detention of some one million Muslims, mostly from the Uighur ethnic minority group, and its “intense persecution” of Tibetan Buddhists, Christians and the Falungong spiritual movement.
While President Donald Trump’s administration has often hesitated to criticize ally Saudi Arabia, the report spoke of widespread abuses in the kingdom.