ISLAMABAD: Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has rejected criticism over the appointment of Dr Atif Mian as a member of the newly reconstituted Economic Advisory Council (EAC) on the grounds that the latter belongs to the Ahmadi community and said that Pakistan belongs to Muslims as well as to members of minority communities.

Talking to reporters outside the Parliament House here on Tuesday, he asked what was wrong in the appointment of a professional economist as a member of the EAC. “He is a member of the Economic Advisory Council, and not the Council of Islamic Ideology.”

He said that protecting the members of minority communities was not just the job of the government, but also the religious duty of every Muslim.

Calling attention notices against appointment submitted in Senate, National Assembly

The minister was originally talking about the presidential election, but a question about the criticism of government on social media over Dr Mian’s appointment received his strong reaction.

“This is the person everyone is saying will be the recipient of the Nobel Prize in the next five years. Why should we not appoint him?” he asked. “I do not understand where all this is coming from. Should we impose a ban on all sorts of responsibilities our minorities perform towards development of the country? Or should we throw them out of the nation? I don’t understand who advocates such a thing.”

In an aggressive style, the minister said “should we throw people belonging to religious minorities into the Arabian Sea”. No one should have any problem if a member of a minority community was appointed to a post, he added.

Terming those opposing the appointment of Dr Mian extremists, he said: “We should not bow down to extremists.”

Calling attention notice

On the other hand, 16 senators led by Maulana Ataur Rehman and Abdul Ghafoor Haideri have submitted a calling attention notice to the Senate, raising objection to the appointment of Dr Mian.

Surprisingly, most of the 16 senators who signed the calling attention notice do not belong to religious parties. They included Mushtaq Ahmed Khan, Taj Muhammad Afridi and Mir Yousuf Badini.

Some members of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) — Mushahidullah, Saadia Abbasi, Sardar Yaqoob Khan Nasar, Sabir Shah and Chaudhry Tanvir — have also signed the calling attention notice. They decried the appointment of Dr Mian and accused him of being involved in promotion of his faith in Europe and Africa.

However, a senior member of the PML-N told Dawn that the party policy was not in favour of the calling attention notice. He said those members of the party who had signed the calling attention notice had done so in their personal capacity.

Some senators belonging to liberal and largely secular nationalist parties in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan have also signed the calling attention notice. They include Mir Kabeer Ahmed Shahi of the National Party, Sardar Azam Khan Musakhel of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and Sitara Ayaz of the Awami National Party.

In a Twitter message, Senator Sherry Rehman of the Pakistan Peoples Party has strongly opposed the calling attention notice.

But another leader of the PPP, former deputy speaker of the Sindh Assembly Shehla Raza, criticised Prime Minister Imran Khan over Dr Mian’s appointment, saying in a statement that he was a hypocrite as he had appointed the great grandson of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as his adviser.

Meanwhile, another calling attention notice of a similar nature has been submitted to the National Assembly.

Initiated by Maulana Asadur Rehman, five MNAs belonging to the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal signed this calling attention notice. They are: Mufti Shakoor, Maulana Salauddin, Maulana Muhammad Anwar, Shahida Akhtar Ali and Alya Kamran.

Dr Mian has earlier served as a professor of economics, public policy and finance in Princeton University, director of The Julis-Rabinowitz Centre for Public Policy and Finance at Woodrow Wilson School. He is the only Pakistani to be considered among International Monetary Fund’s ‘top 25 brightest young economists’.

Published in Dawn, September 5th, 2018