Pak govt succumbs to hardliners, withdraws minority economist’s nomination to top advisory panel
Succumbing to pressure from the hardliners, the Pakistan government on Friday withdrew the nomination of noted economist Atif Mian, a member of the minority Ahmadi community, from a newly-constituted economic panel, according to media reports.
The move came three days after the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government defended the academic’s nomination to the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) led by Prime Minister Imran Khan, saying in categorical terms that it will “not bow to extremists”.
Ahmadis are designated non-Muslims in Pakistan’s Constitution and their beliefs are considered blasphemous in most mainstream Islamic schools of thought. They are often targeted by the extremists and their places of worship vandalised.
Mian, an Massachusetts Institute of Technology-educated Pakistani-American economics professor at the prestigious Princeton University, was recently named member of the 18-member EAC to advise the government on economic policy. He is the only Pakistani to be considered among International Monetary Fund’s list of ‘Top 25 brightest young economists’.
His appointment embroiled in a controversy after it was opposed by several individuals and groups, including the hardline Islamist party Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), who objected to his Ahmadi faith.
Confirming the development, Minister of Information Fawad Chaudhary said the government has decided to withdraw the nomination of Mian from the EAC because it wants to avoid division.
“The government wants to move forward alongside scholars and all social groups, and it is inappropriate if a single nomination creates an impression to the contrary,” he was quoted as saying by the Dawn.
Chaudhry said the ideal state, according to Prime Minister Khan, is of Madina and that the premier and members of his cabinet hold Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in high esteem.
“Khatm-i-Nabuwwat (belief in the finality of the prophethood) is a part of our faith and the recent success achieved by the government in the matter of blasphemous sketches is reflective of the same connection,” he said.
PTI Senator Faisal Javed said Mian has agreed to give up his position on the council and a replacement will be announced later, the Geo TV reported.
Earlier on Tuesday, the government had defended Mian’s nomination, saying “Pakistan belongs as much to minorities as it does to the majority”.
“I don’t think anyone should have objections (to Mian’s appointment), and those who do, they are basically extremists and we will not bow to extremists,” Chaudhary had told a press conference here.
“This is the person everyone is saying will be the recipient of the Nobel Prize in the next five years. Why should we not appoint him? It is not like we have appointed him as a member of the Islamic Council,” he had said.
He had also tweeted that PTI followed the vision of Jinnah who had appointed Zafrullah Khan, an Ahmadi, as foreign minister of Pakistan. “We’ll follow (the) principles of Mr Jinnah, not of extremists,” Chaudhary had said.
His thoughts were echoed by Minister of Human Rights Shireen Mazari, who had tweeted: “Exactly. Well put indeed. Time to reclaim space for the Quaid’s Pakistan!”.
Another Ahmadi community member Dr Abdus Salam, who was the first Pakistani to win Noble prize in Physics, has remained a neglected figure in his own country.