- Cancellation of lecture shows disturbing trend
Apparently, there should be no problem with Dr Atif Mian delivering a lecture on ‘Why has economic growth fallen behind in Pakistan?’ at Karachi’s Institute of Business Administration. He is a professor of economics at Princeton University, and specializes in the connections between finance and the macro-economy. There was no ticket involved, for the lecture was to be online. Yet the lecture was cancelled, not because the topic was not apt for the Institute or because Dr Mian lacked the required expertise, but because, according to Dr Mian’s own social-media explanation, extremists were threatening the university administration. It may be noted that extremist threat was strong enough to prevent the university or the Institute from offering an alternate explanation.
Dr Mian has undergone such an experience before. He was initially named to the Economic Advisory Council of the Prime Minister, but there was an immediate outcry, not because he was unqualified as an economist, but because of his religious faith. He happens to be an Ahmadi. How his religious faith might be related to his economic knowledge was never explained, though some, as ignorant of the tenets of religion as of economic theory and practice, did claim that he would somehow give bad advice which would harm Pakistan’s economy. Everyone has seen how the country has fared deprived of his advice.
It is not a matter of Dr Mian. It is a question of any Ahmadi. Is he or she to be allowed to practice his profession? The circle of forbidden fields seems to be growing. Will extremists refuse treatment from an Ahmadi doctor? Or will they refuse to buy goods from an Ahmadi shopkeeper? Pakistan is not yet free of the problems created by extremists, even though it has poured both blood and treasure into the fight against it. However, the kiling of six military personnel in Razmak only last week indicates that the fight against extremism is far from over. And it should not be forgotten that extremism cannot be countered by a supine acceptance of its demands, no matter how illogical or intellectually lazy.