Pak bows to hawks over economist

Govt forced to change course after radicals threaten protests over Ahmadi adviser

By PTI in Islamabad
  • Published 8.09.18
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Imran Khan

Islamabad: Pakistan's new government cancelled the appointment of a renowned Princeton economist to its Economic Advisory Council, an official said on Friday, after a strong backlash against the choice of a member of the Ahmadi religious minority.

The failure of Prime Minister Imran Khan's government to resist pressure to drop economist Atif Mian reflects the increasing clout of hardline extremists, whose parties won around 10 per cent of the vote at the last election in July.

Faced with a looming balance of payments crisis that may force the country to seek a fresh bailout from the IMF, or other lenders, the government had picked Mian to join an 18-member council to advise prime minister Khan.

Aged 43, and a scholar in the field of finance and macroeconomics, Mian is regarded as one of the world's top young economists.

The Prime Minister's adviser on media, Iftikhar Durrani, confirmed that Mian's appointment had been revoked, while the government's main spokesman alluded to the pressure the government had come under from religious quarters.

"The government wants to move forward with the religious leaders and all segments of society, and if one nomination gives a different impression, then it's not appropriate," information minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Twitter.

Chaudhry had previously defended Mian's appointment saying: "Pakistan belongs as much to minorities as it does to the majority." The government, however, changed course following a widespread social media campaign criticising the appointment and protest threats by the emergent ultra-Right Tehreek-e-Labbaik party.

Under Pakistani law, Ahmadis are forbidden from calling themselves Muslims or using Islamic symbols in their religious practices.

They face discrimination and violence over accusations their faith insults Islam, including impediments blocking them from voting in general elections.

The Ahmadis consider themselves to be Muslims but their recognition of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who founded the sect in British-ruled India in 1889, as a "subordinate prophet" is viewed by many of the Sunni majority as a breach of the Islamic tenet.

"Whenever and wherever any Ahmadi is needed to serve the nation they will be the first to offer their services," community spokesman Salim Ud Din said when asked to comment on Mian's removal from the council.

Bajwa for democracy

Pakistan Army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa has batted for democracy and the need for strengthening institutions in the coup-prone country at an event with Khan.

Addressing the Defence and Martyrs Day ceremony organised by the Army at its headquarters in Rawalpindi on Thursday, Bajwa said that continuation of democracy was must for development and progress of the country.

His significant comments came two days after visiting US secretary of state gave a pep talk to Bajwa on the importance of strong democratic institutions in Pakistan.

The army chief said that for the country's stability and progress, democracy is of utmost importance.

"Democracy cannot blossom without observing the democratic traditions in true spirit and without the strengthening of institutions," he was quoted as saying by Dawn newspaper.

"We have set on this path 10 years ago," he said, apparently referring to the smooth transition of power to civilian leaders in the country after the rule of former military dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

"Today we are more united and more resolute. This is a message that Pakistanis are not ones to fear any crisis and will soar to new heights soon." Khan, chief of the Tehreek-e-Insaf party, is said to have the backing of the military. Reuters,