When even an enemy dies, even reluctantly, one says, Rest in Peace (RIP). But there no resting in peace for Pakistan’s only Nobel laureate, Dr Abdus Salam who, hounded out by his people, lies buried far-away from home, in France.
Dr Salam, who put Pakistan on the map of nuclear development and indeed, built institutions that pioneered its peaceful use – as different from making weapons — is target of a nasty resolution passed by the National Assembly.
On May 3, the National Assembly passed a resolution to change the name of the National Centre for Physics at the Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) from the Professor Abdus Salam Centre for Physics to al-Khazini Department, after Byzantine-origin astronomer Abu al-Fath Abd al-Rahman Mansur al-Khazini.
The reason for dishonouring a contemporary fellow-Pakistani and naming the Centre after a historical figure of scientific world, howsoever great, is not far to seek.
Salam has been hounded for his origins as an Ahmediyya, a sect of Islam that was declared non-Islamic in 1974. The community of an estimated people perennially faces some of the worst violence, social persecution and official neglect and discrimination.
Significantly, the resolution was tabled by a prominent member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), and quickly passed without much of a debate when the legislature itself is on its last legs, preparing for elections this summer.
Questions have been raised whether this was more important than a myriad problem facing the nation. Also, whether it was necessary to insult, afresh, a national icon known the world over.
The mover of the resolution was PML-N lawmaker Captain Muhammad Safdar, who is former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law and aspiring PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz’s husband.
Although Safdar is considered a bit of maverick and has engaged in fulmination against the Ahmediyyas in the recent past, it is being asked if it has official approval.
Neither the government, nor the party, not even Nawaz who has been touring the country making provocative statements against all and sundry, especially the judiciary, has commented on this or cared to distance themselves from it.
That the legislature passed it gives it an official stamp and its political implications can be termed a move to appease the Islamists, both mainstream parties and the militants, in time for the elections.
The miniscule scientific community and the highly divided intelligentsia have not said much. But some media comments are noteworthy for both hailing and justifying it and criticizing it.
Indeed, many have justified it but without citing reasons. Perhaps, except for religious bigotry, there is no reason for justification.
The critics say:
“Another low point in the history of Pakistan. Hope people can see where these guys are bent upon taking the country–to an even darker age. But, that shall not happen.
“If you can do this to the best and brightest among your own, is it any wonder when others are suspicious of your actions and intentions?
“This is very sad decision. we have to give equal rights to all of citizens regardless of their affiliation with religion. I do not know, when we will understand what means by state. All the citizens are same no discrimination because of their color, religion ethnicity etc.
“We as a nation are getting morally bankrupt. Every time I see something like this and think I have seen the lowest but this act is even below the lowest mark.”
Dawn newspaper said the Ahmediyyas have faced persecution and were declared non-Muslims through a constitutional amendment in 1974.
“Last year, during an anti-Ahmadi tirade on the floor of the National Assembly, Safdar had criticised the renaming of the QAU physics centre after Professor Dr Abdus Salam — the country’s first Nobel laureate — on the grounds that the scientist followed the Ahmadi faith.
“The physics centre had been named after Abdus Salam in December 2016 following the approval of then prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who had also approved a grant for five annual fellowships for Pakistani PhD students.
“The fellowship programme was called the Professor Abdus Salam Fellowship. It is unclear whether its renaming is also on the PML-N’s agenda.”
Still technically a government that Nawaz Sharif supports and his party constitutes, it raises the basic questions as to whether there is an about-turn and if so, why.
There is no definite figure of the number of Ahmediyyas who live in Pakistan. It is estimated at between 0.02%-2.2% of Pakistan’s population. Hence Pakistan is the home to the largest population of Ahmadis in the world.
The city of Rabwah in Punjab, Pakistan used to be the global headquarters of the Ahmadiyya Community before they were moved to England.
The Ahmadiyya movement has its origins in the Punjab region, in the city of Qadian (now India). Following the independence of Pakistan, as a separate nation for Muslims in the Indian subcontinent. there have been a number of notable Pakistani people who have belonged to the Ahmadiyya Community, including the country’s first Nobel Prize laureate, Abdus Salam and Pakistan’s first foreign minister Muhammad Zafarullah Khan.