Saturday December 09, 2023

Keeping discrimination at bay

September 14, 2018

Soon after Prime Minister Imran Khan constituted the Economic Advisory Council, a huge wave of criticism emerged on social media. As a result of this campaign, EAC member Atif Mian, belonging to a religious minority group, had to resign.

Being a patriotic non-Muslim parliamentarian, I decided to express by views on this sensitive issue for the betterment of my country and society. As compared to what great religious scholars have to say about this issue, my knowledge of these matters is limited. However, I believe that we should promote a culture of dialogue, mutual respect and tolerance in our society. Above all, keeping religious discrimination aside, every Pakistani should be given the right to serve the country – just as it was given to Muslims and non-Muslims in Medina.

I believe that as the country’s prime minister, Imran Khan has right to choose his team and Atif Mian’s appointment was purely based on his outstanding expertise in economic and financial affairs.

Pakistani-American Atif Mian is ranked among the best economists of the world. According to the IMF, he is among those 25 young economists who are able to shape the world’s perception about the global economy in the near future.

In the context of the recession, which resulted in the loss of around eight million jobs in the US during 2007 and 2009, Atif Mian, in his globally-recognised book titled ‘House of Debt’, explained various important issues pertaining to the modern economy. He also has extensive experience of teaching at renowned American universities, including the University of Chicago and Princeton University.

The main objection over Atif Mian’s appointment was that he was Ahmadi. However, our constitution is very clear regarding the status of Ahmadis. As citizens of Pakistan, they are registered as Ahmadis in the government database.

The greatest example of endurance and tolerance was set by the founder of Pakistan, who clearly stated in his August 11 speech that the state has nothing to do with the religion of any citizen and all people must be treated equally. Quaid-e-Azam put his words into practice by nominating Sir Zafarullah Khan, who was an Ahmadi, as the country’s first foreign minister in recognition of his capabilities.

Even today, our constitution allows minorities to work on higher posts, even though they are not allowed to hold the offices of the president and the prime minister. Every Pakistani is allowed to avail equal opportunities of growth and progress while following his/her religious beliefs. Meanwhile, all those who create hurdles in the progress of eligible non-Muslims are, in fact, violating the constitution.

Similarly, we must understand that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) showed mercy for all mankind. That is why he always prayed for everyone, even those who opposed him. The non-Muslim prisoners of war, who were captured after the Battle of Badr, were asked to educate people in Madina in return for freedom. Do we bother to realise what kind of education was provided by those enemy fighters? Seeking knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim – and that too without any religious discrimination. Muslims have been urged to “seek knowledge even if they have to go as far as China”.

In the current situation, the most reasonable response on the government’s behalf came from Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry. He categorically acknowledged the role of Pakistani minorities. “How can you justify the persecution of religious minorities and their rights in Pakistan?” he asked. Fawad Chaudhry added that Atif Mian is a respected across the world and is slated to win the Nobel Peace Prize within the next five years.

However, Atif Mian’s resignation reflects that the voices of logic, wisdom and dignity are losing day by day in our society. Although Atif Mian’s opponents have prevented him from serving Pakistan, they have failed to propose a suitable alternative. The unfortunate situation also damaged Pakistan’s image on the international level. It wasn’t a wise decision to appoint him if we weren’t going to be able to defend him.

In order to transform Pakistan into a progressive and prosperous country, we have to ensure the implementation of the Madina model and Quaid-e-Azam’s vision. As a first step in the right direction, we must discourage the culture of intolerance, integrate vulnerable minorities into the mainstream, and allow all Pakistani citizens to serve the beloved country without any discrimination.

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council. Twitter: @RVankwani