‘Jumping on the bandwagon’ is a phrase that most aptly brings people’s narratives in line with social media movements. This article is an attempt at ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ over the recent appointment and simultaneous removal of Atif Mian from the Economic Advisory Council (EAC). Looking at the credentials, and credentials alone of the world-renowned economist makes him the most suitable candidate for the job. But somehow, the idea of to whom and in which way a person bows down before God is a concern that outshines an economist who could’ve given direction to the faltering economy.
Although the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has a state religion, but the economy that relies heavily on International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other agencies’ interest-bearing loans, has none. It shouldn’t. By all logic, our banking system is heavily reliant on international standards, as are our laws that regulate these clauses. While somehow Pakistanis, and Muslims all around the world, have internalised these western principles; the idea that these are western non-Muslim principles bodes well with Muslims rather than a ‘secular idea’ emerging from within the Islamic Republic.
What doesn’t sit well with me and many other Pakistanis is how an appointment to the EAC can stir up an uprising — a movement for correcting a religious controversy which has no real relevance. Relevance in this regard is a two-way street; it needs to be put forward and validated, simultaneously. In Pakistan, there are great ideas, but very little validation from the masses. Primarily leaving these ideas to just remain mere words.
While the Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry’s powerful stance on not ‘bowing down to extremists’ for the appointment of Atif Mian showed the new government’s earnest desire to take matters in its own hands, the subsequent removal shows that the government is largely paralysed in matters where even a hint of religion can used to stir up a controversy. Does this mean that the government is largely incapable? Perhaps it is too soon to say. However, these events have allowed us all to understand and acknowledge that in Pakistan, no matter the degree of modernisation and move towards non-partisan politics, religion is a strong mobilising force, which can shelter opposing views towards a common enemy of this Islamic Republic.
Imagine how privileged this nation is, that it decides to turn down a world-renowned economist on the basis of his faith. That it asks an economist to make public his beliefs, to be declared a minority
In recent political campaigns for the run up to the much-anticipated 2018 elections, each political party had to weave in religious slogans in their greater political mantra to gain relevance. The ideas were put forward and with their validation from the people, won support. The biggest example of this is the vote share by the Tehreek-i-Labbaik (TLP), a party that organised itself in 2015, following the death sentence of Mumtaz Qadri, a commando-turned-assassin of governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer. This debate centres around the (in)famous blasphemy law, the exactness of which remains huddled in the largely uneasy and hushed manner in which it is never entirely discussed.
While the blasphemy laws have been around ever since Islam issued state regulations, the debate, or the lack of thereof, has mired any chances of inclusivity of minorities in the state. The latest victim of this has been Atif Mian or rather the Pakistani economy itself. While the debate surrounding blasphemy laws runs in treacherous waters, and the inclusion of minorities remains a far-fetched dream, the humdrum state of affairs with almost 30pc people living below poverty line, and multitudes of climate-related problems facing the largely agrarian economy should get over this unhealthy obsession over religion and find ways that can put the economy on a better path. The recent validation by the Prime Minister Imran Khan for the Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar’s desperate idea for a Dam Fund highlights the basic economic problem of scarcity. With a comprehensive tax regime, the successive governments’ inability to allocate funds effectively is a damning question that could’ve been addressed by the greats of Mian and his fellows Dr Asim Ijaz Khawaja and Dr Imran Rasul.
While many people have pointed out that Mian’s arrogance of not declaring himself as a non-Muslim and the resignations by his fellows highlight that they are in fact ‘enemies of the state’, the fact that someone has to renounce a belief to institute an economic self-correcting mechanism is mind boggling.
Imagine how privileged this nation is, that it decides to turn down a world-renowned economist on the basis of his faith. That it asks an economist to make public his beliefs, to be declared a minority, to work in the highest economic council of the country. There is an innate irony, nobody anywhere on any mainstream media questioned his credibility to work on the council, because merit is subservient to matters pertaining to religious beliefs in this country. All they asked was for him to declare himself as a non-Muslim, and that he belonged to a wronged sect of the society, which needed to be made an official declaration so he could continue his work. This would’ve pacified about 30pc of the opposition. The remaining 70pc are those who would never accept an individual, no matter how accomplished, especially from an Ahmaddiya community, to dare take any prominent position. So what Mian did was done right by perhaps his beliefs, after all. His fellows’ resignations are in line with the idea that the greater Muslims in this country will perhaps build an economy.
You can afford to build a mosque with funds, and ensure its functionality, but public policy isn’t done this way. It’s about time we realise where want to go, and what resources we have available to get there! Perhaps if we had all jumped on the bandwagon for economic prosperity long ago, the country wouldn’t have had to ban cheese import.
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