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September 9, 2018

Whither tolerance?


September 9, 2018

The forced resignation of renowned economist Dr Atif Mian from the Economic Advisory Council shows that extremist elements retain a veto power over all government actions and that today’s Pakistan is going to be as exclusionary as before. Atif Mian was made to step down for no other reason than the fact that he is an Ahmadi. All the much-appreciated talk from Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, that the country belongs as much to its minorities as the majority group, evaporated in the face of pressure from extremist groups like the TLP. Shamefully, mainstream parties also played a role in exerting pressure, which however the PTI government should have resisted. The party came into power promising strict merit in all its appointments but a country cannot be run on the basis of merit when decisions are withdrawn this way. Two other members of the EAC have resigned in protest and the government will now likely find it difficult to attract the best talent when it has demonstrated that it will cave under the slightest pressure.

This is a mess that the PTI had created for itself. When the TLP first emerged as an extremist force, the PTI was right behind it in going after the PML-N. The tables have now turned and the PTI has proved to be even more prone to appeasement than its predecessors. It did not take even street protests for the government to cave. Such surrender will only end up strengthening the hand of the TLP and its ilk. In the past, the PTI has often had a simpatico relationship with such groups. In fact, when Imran Khan had suggested during one of this dharnas that Atif Mian should be made finance minister he quickly backed down when pressured by extremist groups. We must also remember that freedom of religion is enshrined in our constitution. As genuine as the PTI may be in its desire for progress, the only progress worth pursuing is one that includes all Pakistanis regardless of creed. The removal of a man as internationally respected as Atif Mian so early in the government’s tenure does not bode well for the future.

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