CODDIWOMPLING: Travelling purposefully towards a vague destination


Would we have been in this mess if we had kept Atif Mian?


Back in 1896 the American Supreme Court ruled that so long as public facilities were the same for whites and the rest, it was okay to segregate the two. ‘Separate but Equal,’ was the term used. Because of that ruling, segregation was sanctioned, legally, constitutionally. This is how matters stood for about 60 years by which time there were aggressive moves to challenge these laws. Then, a gentleman called Oliver Brown filed a suit against the Board of Education in Kansas questioning why his daughter was unable to attend all-white schools. He said that not only were the white schools better, but that segregation violated the ‘equal protection’ clause of the 14th Amendment in the US Constitution.

By 1954 Earl Warren had been appointed as new Chief Justice to the US Supreme Court, and he succeeded in bringing about… no, not a dam fund… but an extremely progressive verdict, a unanimous one at that, against segregation.

It took considerable skill and effort to achieve this, because racism was not as yet politically incorrect and so there was little pressure to be otherwise, in fact there was quite a lot of pressure to continue being racist. The only opposing pressure was that exerted by reason and conscience. But the case made it through the court, proving that when something is considered worthwhile it is possible to resist pressure and make it happen.

Is it by dividing a nation along religious lines, or any other lines, that unity is sought?

Because of this landmark decision, when you and I visit the USA today, despite the doubtless racism which exists there and everywhere else including Pakistan, except among thinking individuals, we are able to use the same bathrooms, schools, buses and so on, as the white population. No need to use rang gora karnay wali creams.

Back in September last year, Prime Minister Imran Khan appointed Atif Mian to the Economic Advisory Council. But following pressure by extremist right-wing groups that appointment was rescinded and Mian resigned. The reason for taking back the appointment as we know was that Mian belongs to the Ahmaddiya community. That is old news. What is current is that now that the economy of Pakistan is in such dire straits that that old matter insists on coming to mind, not that it should ever have been allowed to leave it.

It is probable that Mian, who has previously taught at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Chicago and is currently a professor of economics at Princeton University, serving as the director of the Julius Rabinowitz Center for Public Policy and Finance, would have done a much better job because he knew finance and economics. With him as advisor, perhaps this coddiwompling government would have been able to steer the economy into safer waters instead of making confident noises about doing so, and pretending it has a direction and an economic policy.

But who would have done a better job and who has not, and in fact the economy itself is a secondary matter. The important point is, why did this incident involving Atif Mian ever happen? Not until such things never happen again should this matter be put on the back shelf.

The dismissal of Atif Mian cuts at the roots of this country’s existence. The government ought to have been challenged in court when Mian was dismissed because that action shattered the Constitution. Because such discrimination is not what an ‘Islamic’ Republic should indulge in. Where was our reason, religious sentiment and conscience at the time? Why do extremist right-wing political parties carry the day with such sickening regularity?

According to the Constitution of Pakistan it is only the President and Prime Minister who are required to be defined as Muslim. All other posts in government are open to followers of other religions.

The dismissal of an eminently qualified candidate on such grounds had not a leg to stand on.

Following the event Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said that the decision was taken because the government wished to maintain unity. The man is wrong, plain wrong.

Is it by dividing a nation along religious lines, or any other lines, that unity is sought? Remember 1971 when Pakistan refused to hand over government to its elected representatives in its East Wing because we did not want the kalay bhookay Bengalis to rule over us? Did that decision unify Pakistan or split it?

The past has a way of coming back to bite you, and in our case now, deservedly so.