The right to protest, voice one’s concerns, and at times even engage in organised remonstration is what fundamentally constitutes the foundation of a democratic state. In the history of power politics, public policy, and government administration, there rarely have been any reforms, appointments or changes which have been implemented without much opposition. There always have been, and always will be, a faction of people who will disagree with what the government in power hopes to enact, but it raises the important question if such opposition always warrants the government to retract what they really hope to implement? If such is the case, then the world would have seldom witnessed any progress, yet this seems to be the modus operandi of governments in Pakistan. The forced resignation of Dr. Atif Mian from the Economic Advisory Council, days after his appointment, has ushered another black day in the history of Pakistan. While some may be celebrating the news, to many people worldwide this is indicative of the abhorrent discrimination to which members of minority groups are subjected. While the resignation came as a result of adverse pressure from Muslim clerics and their supporters, it is the government which needs to be called out for failing to not only uphold Dr. Mian’s constitutional right of being an equal citizen, but of also failing to stand tall in the very first wave of opposition that came their way. For a nation that celebrates Mumtaz Qadri, the reaction to Dr. Mian’s appointment did not come as a surprise, but what really was surprising was the pace at which the government rescinded his appointment, wary of affronting popular sentiments. 71 years post independence, Pakistan is still stuck to the same ideals it was formed on, or let me better rephrase, Pakistan is still stuck to the same ideals that it was not formed on. We were never meant to be a country which would decriminalise to marginalise, celebrate to berate the minorities, laud the assassination of those who stand to protect the weak, and legally inject laws in our constitution which would draw visible and perpetual disparity in the rights and treatments accorded to citizens of different sects, religions, and at times even stature. To substantiate my claim of what Pakistan should have been like, I would refer back to the famous words by the country’s founding father, Mr. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples; you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religions or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State.” Having been on the receiving end of presumably differential behavior, the creation of Pakistan was justified on the grounds of being allowed to practice the religion its inhabitants wished to, with utmost freedom. It was meant to be any religion, but over the course of time got translated to being just Islam, and then further translated in to being merely the Sunni version of Islam. Having gone through a period of systematic repression during the Rule of Congress between 1937 and 1939, Muslims in India experienced how it felt to be ostracised, deprived of opportunities, and most importantly, freedom. Therefore, it only made sense for this new country to be formulated on the grounds of civil and religious homogeny; for only equality alone justified the struggle and sacrifice rendered for the conception of a separate homeland. Unfortunately for Pakistan, the dream never materialised. The Atif Mian episode highlighted the government’s inability to enact any progressive reform targeted towards a better Pakistan, let alone a Naya Pakistan Reasons as to why Pakistan failed to uphold the ideals it was formulated on, find their grounding in both the past and the present. Lack of education, incessant poverty, the perpetual influence of Saudi-Wahhabism, the policing authority of local clerics, the failure of previous governments to prevent factions of religious fanatics to formalise themselves in to organised extremist outlets, and the endorsement of certain banned outfits by political leaders for the sole purpose of gaining political support, have all played their part in precluding the country to unshackle itself from the chains of religious bigotry, and move towards a more progressive and tolerant society. The forced resignation of Dr. Mian comes as another episode of the theatre of hard core fundamentalism that has been adapted as the main script for the future of this country. However, these are all topics for another day. Today’s issue may find its core in the overly prevalent religious bias against the Ahmadiyya community, but today’s failure transcends this core issue itself. It highlights the government’s ineptness, and inability to enact any progressive reform targeted towards a better Pakistan, let alone a Naya Pakistan. Can there really be change when the government cannot even hold on to an appointment based on merit, backed not by just one, but by academics all over the world? My grievance here is with PM Imran Khan alone, for I was rooting for a leader who would deliver as to what he thought would be the best option for the betterment of Pakistan, without caving in to political or societal pressure, without compromising on his political ideology, or being exploited to behave in a manner that would be regrettable for the country. Khan Sahib proved me wrong. Dr. Mian’s resignation is a testament to the government’s willingness to appease the country’s biggest nemesis to a progressive and equitable society, who have long plagued Pakistan by the systematic injection of deep-rooted bigotry. This was PM Imran Khan’s chance of sending a clear message that he would not be part of the societal status-quo which has long marginalised part of the population, or would stand accomplice to the exploitation of religious sentiments for political gain. As a leader, one has to take decisions for the greater good of the country, no matter how unpopular they may be. However, recent incidents make it evident that the current government is highly unlikely to enact policies with as much autonomy and authority as they may claim to. Time and again we have heard PM Imran Khan draw comparisons between his cricketing years, to the job he currently has at hand. At times the analogy did seem a bit too over drawn, as there are only a finite number of skills which appeal to the rational mind as being transferrable from his previous office to his current. But what PM Imran Khan may have really been trying to construe through his analogy was the depiction of his personality: his unwavering ideals; his conviction and perseverance; and most importantly his leadership, which solidified by vanquishing the insurmountable challenges he faced. Today, his strength to remain steadfast in the face of adversity seems questionable. The office that he has he opted for does not come without its fair share of opposition, whether from within his own party, the opposition benches, or international actors. A precedent like forcing Dr. Mian to resign makes one wonder how much will the newly elected Prime Minister be able to achieve, or if he will be able to achieve anything at all. For all it took to shake the government was a little pressure, exerted from various but disorganised corners of the country, and that too directed mainly though social media. There weren’t even any dharnas as yet. The writer is a post-grad dual degree student at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), and Columbia University, studying Economic and Political Development. He is President of the LSE South Asia Society, Director of LSE South Asia Development Conference, and also consults for the UNDP. Twitter @nauraizrana Published in Daily Times, September 17th 2018.