The appointment of Dr Atif R Mian to the 18-member Economic Advisory Council (EAC) ought to have been straightforward. After all, his credentials speak for themselves. Some four years ago, the IMF included him in its list of “top 25 bright, young economists”. That he was and remains the first individual of Pakistani origin to be honoured in this way ought to have been a source of pride for this country. But alas and alack, this has not been the case. For the simple reason that Dr Mian belongs to the Ahmadiyya faith. In a welcome move, the PTI government has remained steadfast in choosing the Princeton University professor as a private sector EAC-member. Indeed, it has gone one step further; with Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary denouncing what he not unreasonably termed an “extremist” mind-set. He also went on to remind everyone that Pakistan belongs just as much to its minority communities as to the majority. While going to on to stress that the burden of responsibility to protect the former rests with both state and citizenry. This public pledge represents an important step in the right direction. Yet there unfortunately still exists a gaping chasm across the great political divide between word and deed. Meaning that while it is becoming more acceptable in certain quarters, and rightly so, to open up rights narratives to encompass the needs of, say, the transgender community — being Ahmadi still remains the last taboo here in Pakistan. This is evidenced by groups such as the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), which as expected objected to Dr Mian’s appointment, not recognising the disconnect between publicly protesting news of a possible blasphemous cartoon competition and inciting religious hatred towards a particular group for upholding different beliefs. Though, of course, it was not the religious right alone that played the bigotry card; whatever the PPP’s Shehla Raza might say in terms of an incompetent social media team and fake accounts. And in a tit-for-tat move, possibly to retribute the PTI over its refusal to accept that the Khatam-e-Nabuwwat controversy was down to a clerical error, the PMLN, too, expressed their desire in wanting Dr Mian out. What the above points to is how mainstream parties still view the anti-Ahmadi card as a crowd-pleaser; a vote-bank insurance of sorts; and legitimate grounds for political point-scoring. Even the PTI chairman is not wholly immune to this. For during the 2014 dharnas, Imran Khan vowed to make Dr Mian his Finance minister once the PTI swept the polls. But this righteous sentiment of ensuring that meritocracy prevail over the feudalism of kinsman-ship was rather short-lived. For as soon as it was brought to his attention that the latter identified as Ahmadi — Kaptaan went into swift retreat; going as far as to say that he had been talking in general terms of inducting experts into the cabinet as opposed to family members. Seemingly, Prime Minister Khan has smoothed things over with Dr Mian. But now the real hard work must begin. The primary duty of care when it comes to safeguarding minority rights and security rests neither with state nor citizenry. But with the Constitution. Thus the PTI has five-years to demonstrate to just what extent it is prepared to stand up to “extremists”. * Published in Daily Times, September 6th 2018.