Bigotry beats merit again

Whatever Atif's beliefs may be, they do not shape economic forces. Regardless, PTI's emphasis on merit, equal opportunity and fundamental rights has been exposed as false

‘Advised and protested against by certain influential (read nuisance) Ulema’ Prime Minister (PM) Khan has succumbed to pressure and removed Dr Atif Mian from his newly formed Economic Advisory Council. His selection was reportedly based on merit, professional competence and reliability.

His removal had nothing to do with these cardinal attributes, his capability or professionalism. That decision was only taken because of his Ahmadi faith. This is a strange and illogical decision by all standards. It has seriously dented PTI’s principled moral platform, and has raised serious questions about their ability to withstand various internal and external pressures which are still to come. Atif Mian was their first litmus test and that too, one of their own choosing. It wasn’t the actual protest but the threat of an agitation which caused this inglorious melt-down. This is not how affairs of the state are run.This is not how wise ,honorable and resolute men behave.

PTI made so much of noise about the surreptitious changes made by the last government in the parliamentarians’ oath form on a similar issue. What is the difference if you too have tripped over the same peg but from a different direction? However there is one great disappointment. PTI stood for an egalitarian order and against a deeply entrenched political system which was supported by various regressive religious groups, including certain sponsors of militancy. That major plank out of your moral chariot is gone after this regrettable decision, which has uncovered your potentially serious vulnerability.

Which career could place a greater demand upon its members than the military? What engagement could bring out the best in a person if not battle? If we could entrust our lives in battle to our non-Muslim patriots, than any other consideration doesn’t matter, in my view atleast

Now, let’s proceed further from here. It appears our country has slid into an abyss where men’s worth is judged by their religion, the length of the prayer mark on their foreheads and how outlandish their dress can get. The closer their appearance and mind is to the medieval times, the more credible it seems to become. By this token, we should now be told to trust the Grand Mufti of Al-Azhar to run Chashma nuclear power plant, and the Imam of Faisal Mosque to be the chief engineer of Bhasha Dam. For all their piety and sublime religious knowledge, they would not be able to tell the difference between a power turbine and a road roller. Caliph Ali once inquired about a certain person’s fitness for an official assignment. He was told of his piety and regularity in prayers. To this he replied,”just tell me how does he deal with the people and how competent is he? That is a fundamental requirement for holding a public office and not the fine print of one’s faith.”

It is abundantly clear that this whole thing is profoundly absurd and completely out of the question. If not then what made you think that a competent, world renowned economist who is an Ahmadi would not deliver? Let’s face it. It wasn’t a question of competence or capability, but political expediency induced by the threat of sectarian agitation which forced this unfortunate change of heart. It is not really the question of Atif’s beliefs, which in any case do not shape economic forces, but how raw and superficial PTI’s emphasis on merit, equal opportunity and fundamental rights has been.

Taking a page from the glorious periods of Islamic rule in various parts of the world, we see Jews perfectly loyally and ably handling Umayyad state finances in Spain and the Ottoman treasury in Turkey. Hindus, Parsis and Zoroastrians  spotlessly taking care of the Mughal Empire’s land revenues and legal affairs. Similarly, Coptic Christians were in some of the most important state appointments in the Fatimid Sultanate in Egypt.

What was it which made them part of the medieval Muslim kingdoms? It was the egalitarian values of the Muslim society and the tolerant, amazingly erudite worldview of the otherwise military-minded Muslim kings. The Holy Prophet (SAW) even created an understanding with the Meccan prisoners of war to educate 10 Muslims each to earn their freedom.

He also asked Muslims to travel to China, if needed, to seek an education. At that time, China must have been a completely infidel country. He also signed the famous Treaty of Medina with Jews and non Muslims of the city, with generous concessions. Take the example of Qaid-e-Azam who had Mandal, a Hindu, as his Law Minister and Sir Zafarullah Khan, an Ahmadi, as his Foregn Minister. So just let us know which model PTI is following, if there is any method at all!

If I were to go back to my school time, the top two students in my class were both Hindus; one became a world class surgeon in Karachi, the other a Grade-22 civil services officer in Pakistan. Similarly when I was in the Pakistan Military Academy, the best and most competent seniors, juniors, colleagues that I had were Ahmadi, Parsi, Christian, Hindu and Sikh. Their faith never crossed our mind, as the Pakistan Army always regards professional competence and capability as the only factor. My non-Muslim comrades, served most honourably and many were promoted to the ranks of General Officers. Which profession could place a greater demand upon its members than the Army? And which engagement can bring out the best in you except battle? If we could entrust our lives in battle to our non-Muslim patriots, than any other consideration doesn’t matter, in my view atleast.

During my reasonably long Army career and also in my personal capacity; working across the continents at different levels I have had to interact with colleagues, friends and strangers from so many different  faiths and have never had any problem. Because I never used a religious dip-stick to gauge a persons depth, nor a sectarian scale to weigh their worth. To be good human being has not been and is not subject to which religion, faith, caste or creed one belongs. At any rate goodness and benevolence are universally distributed and are not a Muslim monopoly as the Maulanas would like us to believe. This should tell us once and for all that no religion is above humanity.

One would suggest that we look for better, competent and reliable human beings and not self righteous mullahs, priests, pundits or lamas. One shabby decision and see how badly the newly formed Economic Advisory Council is disintegrating? Hear also the splinter in sounds from the society below and the painful moans of dwindling, dissipating hope.

The writer can be reached at clay.potter@hotmail.com

Published in Daily Times, September 10th 2018.