The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government has asked Princeton University economist Atif R. Mian to step down from the Prime Minister Imran Khan-led Economic Advisory Council (EAC), PTI Senator Faisal Javed Khan announced.
According to a Friday morning tweet by Javed, Mian has agreed to give up his position on the council. A replacement will be announced later, he added.
Atif Mian was asked to step down from the Advisory Council and he has agreed. A replacement would be announced later.
— Faisal Javed Khan (@FaisalJavedKhan) September 7, 2018
The appointment of Dr Mian of Princeton University (Department of Member Economics and Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy) to the 18-member EAC set up to advise the government on economic policy was opposed by some individuals and groups, including Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), who objected to his Ahmadi faith.
The news of his removal from the body comes as a surprise since the PTI government had only three days ago defended the academic’s nomination, saying in categorical terms that it will “not bow to extremists”.
“Pakistan belongs as much to minorities as it does to the majority,” Minister of Information Fawad Chaudhary had told a press conference in Islamabad, amidst a vicious online campaign targeting Dr Mian for his Ahmadiyya faith.
Chaudhry had taken to Twitter to recall that “Quaid e Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah appointed Sir Zafar Ullah [also an Ahmadi] as Foreign minister of Pakistan; we’ll follow [the] principles of Mr Jinnah, not of extremists.”
His thoughts were echoed by Minister of Human Rights Shireen Mazari, who tweeted: “Exactly. Well put indeed. Time to reclaim space for the Quaid’s Pakistan!”.
A social media smear campaign had erupted against the economist’s appointment, with many calling for his removal.
A call-to-attention notice had also been submitted in the Senate by opposition parties against Mian’s inclusion in the EAC. The notice bore the signatures of the PML-N, Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal and the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party members.
No member of the PPP had signed the document, with the party making it clear that it would not be part of a witch-hunt based on someone’s faith.
A large number of detractors had also shown support for Mian, saying that one’s religion should not factor into their professional qualifications or employment.