The newly elected government of Imran Khan was shown its place by the mullah-military combine last week when it was forced to withdraw the nomination of Atif Mian, an MIT-educated Pakistani-American economics professor at Princeton University, to a newly formed 18-member economic council.
Mian’s crime? He belongs to the Ahmadiya sect, whose members are persecuted in Pakistan by the mullahs and designated as non-Muslims in the Pakistani constitution. Days before, reacting to mounting criticism over the nomination by not just the hardline Islamist parties but also the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), Minister of Information Fawad Chaudhary had launched a blistering counter-attack justifying the move. “What kind of people say things like this?” he asked.
“This is a man who the entire world is saying will receive a Nobel Peace Prize in the next five years. He has been appointed to the Economic Advisory Council, not the Council of Islamic Ideology or something else ... Pakistan belongs as much to minorities as it does to the majority.” He insisted that those who objected to it were “basically extremists and we will not bow to extremists”.
Barely two days later, the minister had to eat his words. “The government has decided to withdraw the nomination of Mian from the economic advisory committee,” he said on Twitter, adding that the government wanted to work with all sections of society, including Islamic clerics. In a show of solidarity, two other EAC members also quit the council over the withdrawal of Mian’s name.
The government’s argument that it was forced to take a U-turn to avoid violent protests at a time when Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Saudi Minister for Information Dr Awwad Bin Saleh Al Awwad were expected in Islamabad does not wash. Imran Khan had the chance to stand up to the mullah-military nexus. But instead, the world got the same old whine from a brand new bottle.