Dismissal of economist sparks Twitter outrage in Pakistan

The incident has started a conversation about bigotry and discrimination against religious minorities in Pakistan

Dubai: Imran Khan-led Pakistani government removed an Ahmadi economist from an advisory role, sparking outrage amongst social media users.

The government is under fire for bowing to pressure exerted by Muslim clerics to remove Atif Mian, a MIT-educated professor at Princeton University and a follower of the Ahmadiyya faith.

Mian @AtifRMian took to Twitter to announce his dismissal: “…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.”

Soon after, social media users expressed their disagreement with the government’s decision. Two other members of Pakistan’s Economic Advisory Council (EAC) announced that they stepped down from their positions as an act of solidarity with Mian.

Religious bigotry

Commenting on professor Asim Ijaz Khawaja’s decision to quit the EAC, fellow Harvard University professor, Dani Rodrik, @rodrikdani tweeted: “An honorable action. The Pakistani government’s disinvite of @AtifRMian not only deprives it of top talent, it also reinforces religious bigotry.”

However, tweep Ayesha Ijaz @ayeshaijazkhan highlighted that no Pakistan-based member of the council chose to show their support: “Is it a surprise that both members of the EAC who resigned in solidarity with #AtifMian live abroad and are expats? Is there increasingly a gulf between the way things are done in Pakistan and what’s acceptable in the rest of the world?”

Replying to Ijaz’s post, Twitter user, @shani248 thought that they might fear scrutiny: “Maybe the ones in Pakistan didn’t resign due to the fears of being called … sympathisers. Or maybe they were fearful for their lives.”

‘Naya Pakistan’

Many netizens said that such actions, like the one against Mian, contradict Khan’s aims to create a “Naya Pakistan” (new Pakistan) that has been his political party’s main slogan.

Twitter user Reema Abbasi @ReemaAbbasi posted: “So the caving in begins? Only #Ahmadi appointment removed. #PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf)#PMIK (Prime Minister Imran Khan) this mission to create/reclaim Naya Pakistan/Jinnah’s Pakistan cannot afford such supersonic capitulation.”

On a similar sentiment, tweep Sehar Shinwari, @SeharShinwari wrote: “Imran Khan has made a biggest mistake. After Atif Mian now Imran Rasool also resigned from EAC and one by one all professional experts are resigning & moving to other countries. I’m afraid we may turn into stone age the way Mullahs are influencing government & every department.”

Twitter user, @bkhan04 commented on the Prime Minister’s “irrational decisions”: “One more wicket down. Another blow to Imran Khan’s irrational decisions and supporting religious bigotry and extremism…”

Tweep @Abdvlnoor highlighted that such discrimination against religious minorities has been long going on in the country: “Every Pakistani Ahmadi grew up with this feeling of being discriminated. This Atif Mian’s fiasco is nothing new but a mere testimony to this systematic oppression of a minority group. Pakistan’s hands are too much dirty now. #AhmadiApartheid”

Whereas, tweep Urooj Zia‏, @Sewrigami emphasiSed that one’s abilities in the professional realm are independent of their religious beliefs: “Atif Mian saheb is an Ahmadi Muslim, brilliant academic, renowned economist. ….Tell me again about how much a person’s religion/sect affects their ability to do their jobs. Go on, I’ll wait.”

An Ahmadi Twitter user, Bilal Mahmood, @bilalmahmooduk also gave his comment on the issue posted: “Ahmadi Muslims of Pakistan will always remain loyal to their country they helped to create. Those who opposed its creation then, and progress today, cannot take this loyalty out of any Pakistani Ahmadi’s heart. Pakistan Zindabad! #EconomicAdvisoryCouncil…”

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