Mohammad Abdus Salam (1926-1996) was his full name, which may add to the knowledge of those who wish he was either not Ahmadi or Pakistani. The man proudly lived and died as both, and much more, as Pakistan disowned him, in life and in death. The government denied him the honour of a state funeral; the media remained absent from the burial ceremony at Rabwah, which has since been renamed not after Abdus Salam but as Chenab Nagar, just to spite its Ahmadi residents.

The restyled epitaph at his grave near his native Jhang awkwardly reads: “First ------ Nobel Laureate”, from which the word “Muslim” has been deleted under court orders; the court, even in its narrow mindedness could have ordered the replacement of “Muslim” with “Pakistani” but that was not to be. This son of Jhang is less known in his own country today than the terrorist Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, even though he had founded and led an abler lashkar (brigade) of some 500 Pakistani physicists and mathematicians over the years whom he arranged to send to UK and US universities on scholarship for higher studies.

He was the guiding spirit and founder of Pakistan’s nuclear programme as well as Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco). The pygmies who after him headed the two institutes he was allowed to set up in Pakistan in his pre-non-Muslim years have since been credited with laurels, and honoured more, even in their dishonourable conduct, as father of this and that, while the Godfather remains conspicuous by his absence in official records.

Dr Salam became the victim of rigid social attitudes and state discrimination against his community when Z.A. Bhutto through an act of parliament declared the Ahmadis non-Muslim in 1974. Heartbroken at the humiliation, he left Pakistan in protest to live in Europe where in 1979 he was awarded the Nobel for his groundbreaking research in theoretical physics; soon roads were named after him in Geneva and Trieste, if not in Islamabad or Jhang. The same year, as it happened, Bhutto was hanged by Gen Zia’s kangaroo court, but the Ahmadis’ predicament was Bhutto’s only legacy that Zia embraced wholeheartedly and built on even further. Despite being given the roughshod, Dr Salam from his institute in Italy, continued to patronise bright Pakistani scientists and students through a scholarship programme. His alma mater Government College, Lahore, which has named its mathematics and physics departments after Dr Salam, and Pakistan Post, which issued a two-rupee stamp to honour him, remain the only state institutions to have acknowledged him.

The nascent rock band aptly named as Beghairat Brigade, of Aalu Anday fame, has hit the nail on the spot with their lyrics of the popular song which rightly laments: aithe Abdus Salm noon puchhdai koi nai (nobody values Abdus Salam here) as they point out that murderers Qadri and Qasab have become our heroes. His birth anniversary, January 29, remains a long shot from being celebrated as Dr Abdus Salam Day, even though we invent anomalies like the Yaum-i-Takbir (atomic detonation day) and Sindhi Culture Day, amongst the myriad others, that are officially marked on our calendar. How truly unworthy is Pakistan of its only Nobel laureate.

Rest in peace, Dr Salam.

The writer is a member of the staff at Dawn Newspaper.

Opinion

Long arm of Big Tech
20 Jan 2021

Long arm of Big Tech

How many people would still be alive if Twitter and Facebook had denied Trump a platform to spread lies about Covid-19 a year ago?
Words, words, words
19 Jan 2021

Words, words, words

There was little in terms of contributions in our own language as we wrestled with the pandemic.

Editorial

Updated 20 Jan 2021

Broadsheet judgement

There are plenty of skeletons in the Broadsheet cupboard and they must be brought out into the open.
20 Jan 2021

Unequal justice

IT seems no one wants to testify against former SSP Malir, Rao Anwar. At least five prosecution witnesses, all ...
20 Jan 2021

Schools reopening

THE disruptive impact of Covid-19 on education will be felt for years to come. For countries like Pakistan, where...
Updated 19 Jan 2021

LNG contracts

It is important for industry to reconnect with the national grid and for gas to be allocated for more efficient uses.
19 Jan 2021

Murdered judges

THE continuous violence in Afghanistan has raised serious questions about the sustainability of the peace process, ...
19 Jan 2021

K2 feat

A TEAM of 10 Nepalese mountaineers made history over the weekend as they scaled the world’s second highest peak K2...