To use religious sentiment for worldly gain is now firmly part of Pakistan’s political culture

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Religious bias okayed

Source: Dawn

By Pervez Hoodbhoy

IT’S always been easy for power-seeking Pakistani clerics and politicians to set our simple-minded religious masses on fire. But, as Prime Minister Imran Khan just discovered, jumping on to a man-eating tiger’s back is one thing; getting off is another. The saga of the Economic Advisory Committee appointment of Prof Atif Mian, a distinguished economist at Princeton University, tells of this.

It all began with Imran Khan reaching out for professional help to manage Pakistan’s failing economy. To his credit Imran Khan recognises that competence counts; professionalism is precisely what made his cancer hospital work. And so he went ahead, acting just as any true liberal (Khan says he hates liberals) would — focusing upon merit, and reaching across Pakistan and outside to find advisers like Mian.

To be honest, it wasn’t much of a proposition. The advisory position offered, then rescinded, was salary-less. The committee of 18 unpaid members of the EAC is tasked with conjuring up a wish list but, as with other such government advisory committees, such recommendations are not binding. No one takes unpaid advice very seriously. Even if things had worked out, Mian would not have moved to Pakistan from his tenured university position. Nor, given other professional commitments, could he have spent much time upon Pakistan’s multiple economic crises.

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