By Kaswar Klasra
September 11, 2018
Radical Islamists took to the streets of
Pakistan on September 1, to protest Prime Minister Imran Khan's appointment of
former Princeton University scholar Atif Mian, a minority Muslim of the
Ahmadiyya faith, to the Economic Advisory Council (EAC). Demanding that Mian be
removed from the EAC, a key forum that advises the prime minister on economic
issues, demonstrators threatened to lock down Pakistan's major cities,
including Islamabad, its capital.
Mian's appointment was opposed by
Pakistan's right wing political parties including "Tehreek-i-Labbaik
Pakistan (TLP)", which strongly objected to his Ahmadi faith.
In addition, a well-orchestrated
social-media smear campaign is being waged against Mian -- the only Pakistani
on the International Monetary Fund's 2014 list of the world's "25
brightest young economists" -- for the sole reason that he adheres to the
Then, in a move that raised eyebrows both
in Pakistan and abroad, the government succumbed to the pressure of Islamists
by showing the door to Mian: he was asked to step down from membership of the
He tendered his resignation on Friday
following a request by the government.
Federal Minister of Information Fawad
Chaudhary confirmed the development to Gatestone Institute by telephone.
"The government requested Atif Mian,
internationally acclaimed economist, to resign from the EAC because it wants to
avoid a confrontation," Chaudhary said.
This was not the first incidence of a
well-qualified Ahmadi Muslim being targeted by extremist Islamists in Pakistan.
In fact, discrimination against prominent members of this minority group is
Take the case of Mohammad Abdus Salam, a
Pakistani Ahmadi Muslim who in 1979 shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with
Sheldon Glashow and Steven Weinberg "for their contributions to the theory
of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary
particles." Salam was the first Pakistani to receive a Nobel Prize in
science, and the second person from an Islamic country, after Egyptian
President Anwar Sadat, ever to have been awarded a Nobel Prize in any field.
Soon after the Pakistani Parliament
declared Ahmadis to be "non-Muslims" in 1974, Salam left Pakistan for
London in protest. He died peacefully in Oxford on November 21, 1996, and was
buried in Bahishti Maqbara, an Ahmadi cemetery in Rabwah, Pakistan. In 2014,
his grave was desecrated and the word "Muslim" removed from the
headstone, "on the orders of the government." This shameful erasure
illustrates the way minorities in Pakistan cannot escape humiliation, even
The history of persecution of Ahmadis in
Pakistan is long and bloody. Since being declared non-Muslim in 1974, the small
community of Ahmadis has been under constant threat by the hard-line members of
the Muslim majority. The following are just few examples of countless hate
crimes that Ahmadis have had to suffer:
In May 2010, simultaneous attacks on two
Ahmadiyya mosques in Lahore during Friday prayers left 94 Ahmadis dead and more
than 120 injured.
In December 2012, one hundred graves in an
Ahmadi cemetery in a Lahore were desecrated by masked gunmen.
In October 2017, Mohammad Safdar, a
prominent legislator -- and the son-in-law of former three-time Prime Minister
Nawaz Sharif -- launched a verbal attack on Ahmadis, calling them a
"threat to this country, its Constitution and ideology... Because their's
is a false religion, in which there is no concept of jihad for Allah."
That same month, a court in Pakistan's
Sheikhupura district sentenced three Ahmadi youths to death on blasphemy
charges. The defendants had been accused in 2014 of tearing down posters --
reportedly inscribed with Islamic verses -- which urged villagers to boycott
In May 2018, an angry mob of extremist
Muslims attacked an Ahmadiyya mosque in the Sialkot district of Pakistan's
The Pakistani government's succumbing to
pressure from radical Muslims, and its cancellation of the appointment of an
Ahmadi to a key advisory position, is a step backwards and further highlights
the plight of minority groups. Ahmadis are still widely viewed in Pakistan as
"non-Muslims" at best, and infidels at worst. Let us hope that the leadership's
abandonment of Atif Mian is the last such incident.
Kaswar Klasra is a journalist based in Islamabad, Pakistan.
2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not
necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part
of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or
modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.