Pakistani Government Removes Ahmadi Economist From Advisory Council

The Ahmadi community, in a Sunni-dominated Pakistan, are dangerously persecuted.  In 2018, Pakistan celebrated Imran Khan’s election as Prime Minister, signaling hopes for a new and better country by breaking the hold on power the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) or the military have had. However, that sense of optimism was tarnished after the government forced Atif Mian, a professor of economics at Princeton University, to resign from the  Economic Advisory Council (EAC) because of his religious identity as an Ahmadi. Dr. Mian was chosen to serve as a member on the EAC, formed by Khan, to advise on finance and economic issues. Mian’s nomination was subsequently followed by severe backlash from extremist groups objecting to his proposal and the government later succumbed to their pressure, according to local media reports.

Mian later expressed his disappointment via Twitter saying that “For the sake of the stability of the Government of Pakistan, I have resigned from the Economic Advisory Council, as the Government was facing a lot of adverse pressure regarding my appointment from the Mullahs (Muslim clerics) and their supporters.” Dr. Asim Khwaja from the Harvard Kennedy School and Dr. Imran Rasul, a professor of economics at University College, London, resigned from the EAC in protest to Dr. Mian’s dismissal.  Dr. Mian’s forced resignation sparked severe criticism from more than ninety leading economists and eight Nobel laureates. Local media reported Dani Rodrik, a Turkish economist and International Political Economy Professor at Harvard University, disparaging his unjust removal. “It is with dismay that I learned recently that Princeton’s Atif Mian, one of the greatest scholars on finance and macroeconomics I know, was disinvited from Pakistan’s Economic Advisory Council because of his religious beliefs.”

Relegating a prestigious academic for his religious conviction is appalling. Religious intolerance towards minorities has blinded the greater public from seeing what is good for them. Pakistan desperately needs representatives in government that hold positions of influence based on merit than awarding political cronies. Choosing to align with extremists sends a message to the global community about the ideology the government values more, which reflects poorly on the country’s already questionable image. The new government should take responsibility by apologizing for bowing down to extremist pressure and reinstate Dr. Mian on the council.

Pakistan’s history is blemished with violence and discrimination against religious minorities. The persecution the Ahmadi community face was institutionalized in 1974, when an amendment to the constitution declared Ahmadis non-Muslims. Furthermore in 1984, President Zia introduced Ordinance XX which prohibits Ahmadis from professing themselves as Muslims.  Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws are repeatedly used against the Ahmadi community since they have faith in in the prophethood of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad who founded the sect. Their belief is considered a violation of the basic tenets of Islam, that the Prophet Mohammad was God’s last direct messenger, by Sunnis. Ahmadis are often subjected to cruel persecution; as recently as 2017, three Ahmadi men were arrested and sentenced to death for removing an anti-Ahmadi poster, Amnesty International reported. Mohammed Hanif, a writer for the New York Times, described the violence perpetrated against Ahmadis. In 2017, “an Ahmadi lawyer, his wife and two-year-old child had been shot dead by gunmen at home…” while “on May 28, 2010, some 90 Ahmadis were killed during attacks on two mosques in Lahore. No public official attended the funerals.”

Religion is very important to the state of Pakistan and practicing tolerance is a key aspect of Islam. The influence of religion on an average Pakistani is very deep and religious representatives, many self-proclaimed, exploit that value by inciting hate for groups that are different. The state has a responsibility to protect its minorities and work to entangle the hold extremist ideology have on state-related matters.