How many provisions of the Constitution does the government violate when it forces a man to step down from public office because of his faith? Quite a few it seems. It begins- arguably with Article 14 (1), which guarantees the dignity of every person in Pakistan. The interesting thing about this provision is that it seems to be the only fundamental freedom in the Constitution of Pakistan that cannot be restricted on any basis. In short, if you violate this provision, your excuses are moot. Some scholars have defined human dignity as the foundation of all fundamental rights, so when you take away someone’s dignity you are eerily close to taking away their humanity. This is why dignity rose to be such an important concept after the Second World War and the horrors that the world experienced. The concept that someone is of lesser value in a country because of their religious identity robs them of their dignity, and this is what led to Atif Mian being forced out of the Economic Advisory Council (EAC). By caving in to pressure from the extreme right, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) robbed Atif Mian and his religious community of their dignity. Of course, you also undermine Article 20 which guarantees the freedom of religion. When being part of a religious community makes you ineligible to hold a job in the government, well, that is pretty much a violation of your ability to practice your faith. If you live in a country that forces you to hide your religious beliefs, if it condemns you for identifying with a particular faith, then you don’t live in a country that believes in the freedom of religion. By removing Atif Mian from the Economic Advisory Council because of his faith, the PTI basically stated ‘all religions are equal, but some are more equal than others’. Then, there is Article 25 which states that all citizens are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection. A guarantee of freedom from discrimination. If Atif Mian had belonged to the majority Muslim faith would he have been forced to step down? The government gave no other explanation apart from his faith for his exclusion, therefore, it is evident that Atif Mian was forced to step down because of bigotry and prejudice. The exact grounds of discrimination which Article 25 was supposed to protect against. There was no other objective, intelligible differentia between him and the other members of the EAC. The PTI forced Atif Mian to step down because of his identity, not because of his qualifications, and that hits at the core of Article 25. Finally, in the list of Articles violated, comes Article 27 which explicitly states that no citizen otherwise qualified for appointment in the service of Pakistan can be discriminated against on the basis of religion. Arguably, members of the EAC fall within the definition of ‘service of Pakistan’ given in Article 260 of the Constitution, since it is a post in connection with ‘the affairs of the Federation’. Since Atif Mian’s removal was on purely religious grounds there is little to be said apart from the fact that this Article was rendered meaningless by the PTI when it took its decision. Article 27 explicitly states that no citizen otherwise qualified for appointment in the service of Pakistan can be discriminated against on the basis of religion Let me also address the prevalent counter-argument floating around from the religious right before someone tries to be smug and point it out. The argument goes that the Constitution declares that the government must give the principles of Islam priority over all other rights and obligations. This argument is flawed. First, the Supreme Court of Pakistan rejected this constitutional hierarchy in the Hakim Khan case (PLD 1992, Supreme Court 595), and second, there is a wealth of literature that shows that Islam has at its core tolerance towards other religious beliefs when appointing them to important government posts. The Abbasid Caliphs, for example, had many non-Muslims serving as senior government officials. Furthermore, sources of Islamic law point to a religion that fundamentally asks its believers to be tolerant towards the belief of others. The Quranic code is at pains to stamp out any narrow view of religious plurality, even stating ‘let him who will believe, and let him who will reject it [Islam]’. The fiasco surrounding Atif Mian raises the following questions: are all the constitutional guarantees that were violated merely paper promises? Pretty words that make us fool ourselves into believing we are tolerant and accommodating? As the religious right gains further ground, and the government buckles before them, the answer seems to become more and more obvious. If this is the respect the government gives to fundamental rights in the Constitution, they might as well tear it up for the paper promise that it is. The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore and also teaches at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. He holds an LL.M. from New York University where he was a Hauser Global Scholar. He tweets at @HNiaziii Published in Daily Times, September 25th 2018.