Pakistan government removes minority economist from advisory council

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Islamabad : The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government on Friday asked renowned economist Atif R. Mian, who belongs to the persecuted and minority Muslim sect Ahmadi, to step down from the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) following mounting pressure from religio-political parties against his appointment.

Atif Mian, a Princeton University economist, had been appointed to the EAC last week and has agreed to resign, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry tweeted on Friday. A replacement will be announced later, he said.

"The government wants to move forward alongside scholars and all social groups, and it is inappropriate if a single nomination creates an impression to the contrary," the minister tweeted.

The appointment of Atif Mian of Princeton University to the 18-member EAC set up to advise the government on economic policy was opposed by some individuals and groups, including Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, who objected to his Ahmadi faith, Dawn online reported.

The news of his removal from the body came as a surprise since the Imran Khan government three days ago defended the academic's nomination, saying in categorical terms that it will "not bow to extremists".

"Pakistan belongs as much to minorities as it does to the majority," Chaudhary had said earlier this week, amidst a vicious online campaign targeting Atif Mian for his faith.

A social media smear campaign had erupted against the economist's appointment, with many calling for his removal.

On the other hand, there were a large number of supporters who defended Atif Mian's appointment on the social media, saying that one's religion should not factor into their professional qualifications or employment.

Atif Mian served as a professor of economics, public policy and finance at Princeton University and as director of The Julis-Rabinowitz Centre for Public Policy and Finance at Woodrow Wilson School. He is the only Pakistani to be considered among the International Monetary Fund's "top 25 brightest young economists".

Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims in Pakistan through a constitutional amendment passed on September 7, 1974 during the tenure of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

This measure was later followed with General Ziaul Haq making it a punishable offence for Ahmadis to call themselves Muslim or to refer to their faith as Islam.