Imran Khan’s government caves in to pressure over minority economic adviser

Pakistan premier Imran Khan’s government backed down Friday over its controversial decision to appoint a member of a persecuted religious minority as an economic adviser. (AFP)
Updated 07 September 2018

Imran Khan’s government caves in to pressure over minority economic adviser

  • Atif Mian, an MIT-educated Pakistani-American economics professor at Princeton University, was recently named member of a new economic advisory council
  • Mian is an Ahmadi, a religious minority which has long been persecuted in deeply conservative Muslim-majority Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan premier Imran Khan’s government backed down 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.
Mian is an Ahmadi, a religious minority which has long been persecuted in deeply conservative Muslim-majority Pakistan, and the announcement sparked swift backlash from Islamist groups.
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, but within days caved to mounting pressure from the religious right.
“The government has decided to withdraw the nomination of Atif Mian from the economic advisory committee,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry wrote on his official Twitter account, saying the government 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.
Khan caused concern with his full-throated defense of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws during his election campaign earlier this year, with fears he was mainstreaming extremist thought which could deepen sectarian divides, empower radical groups, and even provoke violence.
Analysts have warned that Pakistan’s economy is the most urgent challenge facing Khan’s new government, as a balance-of-payments crisis looms.
The government has said it will decide by the end of this month if it needs to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund.


India overtakes Russia to become world’s third highest for virus cases

Updated 06 July 2020

India overtakes Russia to become world’s third highest for virus cases

  • The health ministry said 697,358 cases had now been recorded, a rise of 24,000 in the last 24 hours
  • India has registered 19,963 deaths from the virus

NEW DELHI: India announced Monday that it has nearly 700,000 coronavirus cases, taking it past Russia to become the third-hardest-hit nation in the global pandemic.
The health ministry said 697,358 cases had now been recorded, a rise of 24,000 in 24 hours, while Russia has just over 681,000.
The United States and Brazil have the highest numbers of cases but India’s tally is not expected to peak for several more weeks and experts predict the one million figure will be passed this month.

India has registered 19,963 deaths from the virus, a much lower number than many other badly hit countries.
India’s major cities have been worst hit by the pandemic. New Delhi and Mumbai each have about 100,000 cases, with 3,000 dead in the capital and nearly 5,000 in Mumbai.
New Delhi has opened a new 10,000-bed temporary virus hospital while other cities are tightening restrictions on movement to head off a new surge in cases.
The Kerala state capital, Thiruvananthapuram imposed a new lockdown from Monday with public transport shut and only pharmacies allowed to open. The clampdown came after hundreds of new cases were reported across the state, which had been praised for its action to curtail the pandemic.