Pak. caves to pressure over Ahmadi adviser

Removes economist from council
Pakistan Premier Imran Khan’s government backed down on Friday over its controversial decision to appoint a member of a persecuted religious minority as an economic adviser, underscoring the pressure it faces from hardline Islamists.
Atif Mian, an MIT-educated Pakistani-American economics professor at Princeton University, was recently named member of a new Economic Advisory Council. Mr. Mian is an Ahmadi, a religious minority which has long been persecuted in deeply conservative Pakistan, and the announcement sparked swift backlash from Islamist groups.
Considered non-Muslims
Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims, but their beliefs are seen as blasphemous in most mainstream Islamic schools of thought. They are designated non-Muslims in Pakistan’s Constitution. Government officials initially defended the decision to appoint Mr. Mian, with Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry vowing “Pakistan belongs as much to minorities as it does to the majority… we will not bow to extremists” in a video clip which went viral. Three days later, his government caved to the mounting pressure from the religious right. “The government has decided to withdraw the nomination of Atif Mian from the Economic Advisory Committee,” Mr. Chaudhry tweeted, saying they wanted to work with all sections of society, including Islamic clerics.
Blasphemy is a hugely inflammatory charge in Pakistan, and can carry the death penalty. The state has never executed a blasphemy convict, but mere accusations of insulting Islam have sparked mob lynchings, vigilante murders, and mass protests. Friday’s decision came after Islamists also forced the federal Law Minister to resign his post following anti-blasphemy protests last November, in a deal brokered by the military.
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