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US praises Bangladesh 'freedoms'

Eunuchs in Bangladesh
The report said that minority rights in Bangladesh are better respected

The Bangladeshi government has welcomed moves by a US congressional panel to remove it from a list of countries deemed to violate religious freedoms.

The decision is a vindication of the new government's determination to protect minorities, a spokesman in the prime minister's office said.

The panel ruled that Bangladesh's elections in December were "relatively free of violence".

However, Pakistan is described by the panel as "of particular concern".

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom report said that Afghanistan also needed to be "closely watched" and Sri Lanka was a cause for concern.

'Killings'

It said that the winning party in the Bangladesh elections, the Awami League, was "more favourably disposed towards minority rights protection".

"The 2008 elections allowed for minorities to exercise their voting rights and proceeded without the anti-minority violence that followed the last national elections of 2001," the report said.

"At that time the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led government failed to investigate or prosecute acts of severe violence, including killings, rapes, land seizures, arson and extortion against religious minorities - especially Hindus."

On Pakistan, the report said that there had been "a largely unchecked growth in the power and reach of religiously-motivated extremist groups whose members are engaged in violence in Pakistan and abroad".

It said that sectarian violence had continued in Pakistan - particularly against Shia Muslims, Ahmadis, Christians and Hindus.

"The government's response continues to be insufficient and in some cases, is outright complicit."

On Afghanistan the report said that "the failure of the new constitution to protect individuals from within the majority Muslim community to dissent from the prevailing Islamic orthodoxy continues to result in serious abuses".

On Sri Lanka the report said that religious minorities had been attacked in their places of worship. It said that a proposed legislation on religious conversions would violate international law.



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