Dhaka, Bangladesh
Economics and Religion

Off the track

Economics and Religion

Dr Atif Mian

It is unfortunate both for Pakistan and its economy
that the Imran Khan government has buckled at the
threshold to the resonant rumblings and the ramped up
pressure of the orthodox segment. It thus comes about
that at a direly critical juncture ~ when the new
establishment contends with a stuttering economy ~
the aggressive cricketer at the helm has had to play
on the backfoot on what has turned out to be a rather
treacherous pitch.
Not surprisingly for an Islamic country, the
government has decided to drop its decision to
include Dr Atif Mian, the renowned economist of
Princeton University, in the new Economic Advisory
Council. The contrived connection between economics
and religion is as oddly communal as it is quirky.
Prof Mian has been dropped from the expert panel for
no cogent reason but the cavil of the clerics that he
belongs to the stigmatised Ahmedi sect, one that also
gave to the country one of its founding fathers in
Muhammed Zafarullah Khan.
Sure Prof Mian is an Ahmedi, but what has that got to
do with the essay towards shoring up the torpid
economy? Palpable is the utter condescension towards
the minorities, provoking the information minister,
Fawad Chaudhury, to reject the criticism of the
scheduled appointment, couched in the critical
assertion that “Pakistan belongs to minority
communities just as it does to the predominant
majority”. That remarkably liberal construct,
contextualised with the Prime Minister’s liberal
credentials, has regretfully cut no ice. The
government will be expected to walk the talk.
Mr Khan’s Naya Pakistan may yet be a long way away.
Principally, the consummation to be devoutly wished
for can hope to attain fruition if the grievances of
all minorities, notably the occasionally persecuted
Christians, is suitably addressed. This makes an
inclusive policy imperative, a compulsion that has
been accorded the short shrift by Pakistan as indeed
all or nearly most Muslim countries.
In the larger canvas, the blasphemy law cries out for
reflection not the least because of the resultant
killings over the past few years, including that of
the Governor of Punjab province. The Ahmedis languish
in isolation, and it is fervently to be hoped that
the current fiasco over Prof Mian’s appointment will
spur rethink and redressal. As often as not, they are
targeted by the extremists and their places of
worship vandalised.
Sad to reflect, the line between religious orthodoxy
and the discipline of economics has been blurred by
the hardliners. No less distressing must be the
reality that these hardliners have come to influence
government policy.

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