Atif Mian a highly respected economist, and is known internationally as well for his work. He is currently a professor at Princeton University and has previously taught at the University of Chicago and the University of California at Berkeley. In short, he is exactly the kind of person the PTI government promised it would consult to ensure the best possible governance in the country. To its credit, the government named Atif Mian to the Economic Advisory Council – despite knowing the kind of reservations his appointment would lead to over the fact that he belongs to the Ahmadi community. Those protests have predictably arrived. Opposition parties in the Senate submitted a notice signed by members of the PML-N, ANP, MMA and PkMAP objecting to his inclusion in the EAC. For someone from the PML-N to cater to such overt bigotry is doubly cynical because it experienced something similar when opposition parties, including the PTI, railed against the government over changes to the oath taken by Muslim members of parliament. In both cases, the lead has been taken by the extremist Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan. During the PML-N government’s tenure, the TLP had shut down the Faizabad interchange for over a month and eventually claimed the scalp of the law minister. During that protest, the group had also incited violence against Ahmadis and suffered no consequences for its actions.
The TLP is trying similar tactics now. So far, the government has admirably stood by its decision to appoint Atif Mian. In a press talk, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry gave a welcome reminder that Pakistan belongs as much to minorities as the majority community and gave the example that Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah had appointed Sir Zafrullah Khan as foreign minister. Predictably, the TLP is now demanding that both Atif Mian and Fawad Chaudhry be removed from their posts. At this point, the government needs to stand firm. Many still remember how, last year, Imran Khan had suggested appointing Atif Mian as finance minister only to take back his words. The PTI would go a long way in convincing its sceptics if it rejects appeasement. It should go without saying that the government needs to appoint the best people regardless of their religious affiliations. It is equally important that there be minority faces in the government as an explicit rebuke to the merchants of hate we have created, fed and unleashed in our country.