Last week, when PTI’s Information minister Fawad Chaudhry reaffirmed his party’s support of Atif Mian’s appointment to EAC, it symbolised a lot of things. It was a commitment from PTI that it would uphold Article 36 of the Pakistani constitution, which guarantees the rights of minorities. It was a reassurance that served as a moment for hope that Naya Pakistan would be a meritocracy, where one succeeds on the basis of their hard-work and qualifications, and not on family contacts, creed or sect.
All of that PTI has dashed yesterday with its announcement that they had asked Atif Mian to step down, despite Pakistani law stipulating that non-Muslims would not be discriminated on basis of their faith for employment.
Perhaps we should have known it was too good to be true. The PTI government had been having a honeymoon period for its few weeks- with several on-the surface successes like the cancellation of the Dutch cartoon competition and its austerity promises; the government’s conviction on a tone of reconciliation and betterment of the country made us believe that the party’s tendency of backing out of its promises would not spill over to its governance. Alas, we were wrong, as less than four days after Fawad Chaudhry’s forceful statement defending Atif Mian’s appointment, he was forced to resign. The appointment of Atif Mian- ranked among the top 25 economists of the world- was a choice that government had to make between the Pakistani ideology and constitution, which emphasise equality, non-discrimination in employment and meritocracy, and appeasing groups like TLP- and unfortunately, it has made the wrong decision.
What is most worrying is that this decision displays PTI’s lack of grit, indicating that the party will be unable to withstand pressure from religious groups in the future as well, which will only become more violent and active now that their demands are met. This classical U-turn by the government, for the likes of extremist parties, will only come back to haunt it in the future.
Thus, it seems we are resigned once again to a situation where bigotry, hate and divisiveness won, instead of waking up to a Naya Pakistan, the one envisioned by our founders, where Muslims and non-Muslims can live peacefully side by side without discrimination. We wonder if we ever will.