Very Own: Dr. Abdus Salam (As I View Him)
By Mohammad Ashraf Chaudhry
In his article
“Remembering Dr. Salam, Khalid Hasan says,
“Here is Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s chance
to redeem himself. He should visit Dr.Salam’s
grave in this 10th anniversary year and lay a wreath
on it on behalf of the people of Pakistan”.
It is a valid suggestion made to a wrong person.
An anecdote taken from Sheikh Rashid’s book,
“Farzand-e-Pakistan”, may perhaps supply
us the answer.
Sheikh Rashid writes on p.86, “Maulana (Ghulam
Ullah Khan of Rawalpindi) asked me to stop the car
outside the Army House, and as he prepared to go
inside. I asked him I could very well drop him inside”.
On hearing this, the Maulana retorted, “Don’t
be silly, getting down from a car in front of a
Head of State can easily be construed that Mullahs
are well-off people”. Maulana returned in
an hour, after having met General Zia Ul Haq, but
appeared in great haste. He urged him (Sheikh Rashid),
repeatedly to get out of that place as quickly as
possible. After getting away from the Army House,
Maulana finally explained the cause of his haste,
“Forget elections. This man, Gen. Zia, is
obsessed with something to the extent that he would
not abdicate his seat of power unless he was shot
dead”. He further elaborated his point of
view and said, “Nobody can take away the Imaamet
of a mosque from a Maulvi, how can these hapless
politicians take away the Presidency from this Maulvi
As a resident of Rawalpindi, I know how two veteran
Maulanas, namely Arif ullah shah Qadri, and Maulana
Ghulam Ullah Khan, kept the city awake and divided
for quarter of a century till one of them had to
be allured with some tangible perks to Wah, a suburban
town of Rawalpindi. Basically, the rest that has
followed since seventies is an extension of this
melodrama. Visiting graves and heaping wreaths on
them won’t solve the problem which has marinated
our nation in hypocrisy so well right to the bones.
The first cabinet of Pakistan consisted of seven
members, and one of them who held the portfolio
of Law and Labor was a Hindu, Mr. Jogendra Nath
Mandal. The 8th member who joined a little later
as the First Foreign Minister of Pakistan was, no
one else but Ch. Zafarullah Khan, a Qadiani. It
is not just a piece of fiction, but a fact that
Pakistan, as visualized by its Founder, had emerged
on the world map as a very progressive, liberal,
moderate and religiously tolerant Islamic country.
But did it remain so?
THREE-PRONGED TROUBLE: What really blurred Pakistan’s
image and created an identity crisis in subsequent
years also happened in these very early fifties.
I vividly remember the year 1953 when as a fifth-grade
student I saw police protecting one particular house
in our Mohallah. Mr. Abdul Rahman, the resident
of this house, was a very respectable person, a
friend of my father, and a sole class-II gazetted
officer in the whole area. I remember we as kids
particularly asked by our parents to play near that
house and watch any suspicious activity taking place
near it. We did that, without actually understanding
why Mr. Rahman felt so threatened and by whom? Nor
were we as children explained in clear terms that
Mr. Rahman was no longer a good human being because
he was an Ahmedi. This much we already knew.
The Punjab elections of 1951 had, no doubt, brought
Mian Mumtaz Daultana into power, but that didn’t
solve his endemic problem. One of his deferred dreams
had been to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
This could happen only if somehow he could manage
to bring down the Federal Government. Ch. Zafarullah
Khan, an Ahmedi, in the Federal Cabinet thus was
chosen as a perfect Achilles’ heel. Mian Sahib
dexterously used his provincial secret service,
already in link with the Islamist groups, and succeeded
in creating an atmosphere of popular agitation,
calling for a legislation declaring the Ahmedis
as non-Muslims , just for legal purposes.
The plan initially went very well, but none of the
two stated goals was achieved: neither Sir Zafarullah
Khan felt compelled to resign, nor did the Federal
Government cave in. Instead, what Mian Sahib found
as CM on his plate was a dire law and order situation
filled with violence and mayhem. As expected, the
army had to be called in.
In simple words, the three inter-linked problems
that have since then plagued Pakistan in the last
fifty-five years was thus born in 1953. The problem
since then has journeyed in circles in this fashion
at least four times, following a similar pattern.
Initially the state apparatus uses religion, or
the religious groups for a political purpose; then
the religious groups go out of control, and finally
the military steps in to restore order. This theory
has been beautifully described by Hussain Haqqani
in his book: Pakistan: between Mosque and Military.
WILLFUL NEGLECT: It would be wrong to say that the
people of Pakistan willfully gave a cold shoulder
to Dr. Salam when he was awarded the Nobel Prize
in 1979. It was the government of General Zia that
had remained lukewarm in its attitude towards Dr.
Salam, and not the people. The reason of this snowy
attitude has already been described in the first
paragraph of this article.
It is true that in the entire Muslim world Professor
Salam could have been the only Nobel Laureate who
would have won the coveted prize twice, one in 1956
when he was discouraged by Wolfgang to publish his
two-component theory of the Neutrino ( two American
physicists won the Nobel Prize in 1958 for this
theory); and second in 1979 when he shared the prize
with Steven Weinberg for his unified electroweak
theory. So far as of October, 2006, in hundred years,
a total of 781 Nobel Prizes have been awarded, 763
to individuals, and 18 to organizations, with only
one getting it two times. Dr. Salam could have been
the second to repeat that feat. Who knows Faiz Ahmed
Faiz would have been the second Nobel Laureate from
Pakistan, had the government of Pakistan endorsed
It is also true that there was little jubilation
in Pakistan when in 1979 Dr. Salam won the prize,
and if there was any, it was subdued in tone. It
is understandable as in general an atmosphere of
religious persecution, and of branding people as
good or bad became quite pervasive by early 80’s.
The youth in general, however, always held him in
great esteem, though one segment of it, a wing of
a religious party, specializing in Dharna
politics, remained active in hurting him by harping
day and night that he was a bad person because he
was an Ahmedi. The 1974 national assembly decision
which had declared Ahmedis as non-Muslims became
further monstrous when Gen. Zia in April 1984, inserted
sections 298-B and 298-C into the Pakistan Penal
Code, finally making it a criminal offence for Ahmedis
if they posed themselves as Muslims, or attempted
to preach or propagate their faith by using any
Islamic terminology. This practically choked the
lives of the people in minority in the literal sense
of the word.
The cancellation of the scheduled address of Dr.
Salam at the Quaid-i-Azam University in 1979 under
threat of violence is a living proof of how the
country had begun slipping backward gradually. The
reception accorded to him, however, by the students
of Gordon also describes the neutralizing forces
active at the same time.
Khalid Hasan quotes the dialogue that took place
between Dr. Salam and Bhutto when Dr. Salam resigned
from his post as chief scientific adviser in protest.
“Salam, what is this? Why have you resigned
as chief scientific adviser?” Salam told him
that after the NA verdict declaring his entire community
of Ahmedis as non-Muslims, he could not possibly
continue. Hearing this Bhutto said, “But,
Salam that is all politics; give me time; I will
change it, believe me”. “ All right,
Zulfi, I believe you, but write down what you have
told me on a plain piece of paper and it will remain
between the two of us, forever and always”.
Bhutto’s reply was classic Bhutto, “Salam,
I can’t do that; I am a politician”.
So in other words, the country lost its identity
as a progressive and moderate Islamic country in
the game of politics, and in the process it also
lost some of its finest sons.
Yes, it is true that no street, no library, no university,
and no building has ever been named after Dr. Salam.
In fact, they even expunged all those Quranic verses
that he had quoted in his interviews because as
a non-Muslim, they thought, he was not supposed
to have recourse to them. The country whose passport
he had always refused to surrender, finally one
day woke up to pin a civil award on his chest only
after it got wind that India was about to take the
lead. Bitterness should have been the natural consequence
of this criminal neglect, but it did not affect
Dr. Salam’s nature. Like Abdul Rahman of our
Mohallah, this great man always remained cool as
a cucumber throughout his life.
Dr. Salam, however, was not a politician that he
should have chosen self-exile for himself. Who could
have stopped him from sharing the fund of knowledge
he had acquired in the Western labs. But alas, he
did not do so. Of the two options, to stay and serve
professionally, or to pack up and leave; he chose
the easy one. In the words of Robert Frost, “Two
road diverged in a wood, and I…I took the
one less traveled by, and that has made all the
difference”. It is unfortunate that Dr. Salam
did not chose a less traveled by road. He left like
most, only to return in a casket.
The Quaid, a Memon, would never have been the Quaid,
had he chosen to stay in England for good; the Gandhi
that he became would have long been forgotten in
that distant land called South Africa, had he decided
to settle there for ever. Nor surrendering his Pakistani
passport, or having a burial in Pakistan hardly
ever make up for the loss the country suffered as
a result of the easy choice Dr. Salam made by making
London and Toronto as their safe haven. His unique
distinction as a Nobel Laureate was due to his being
a scientist, and not a Qadiani. UC Berkely and Stanford
alone may have more than half of dozen Nobel Laureates,
great but anonymous. Dr. Saleem-uz-Zaman and Dr.
Ata-ur-Rahman and many more have made their contribution
in that beleaguered and wronged country, called
Pakistan; just imagine what would have happened
had Dr. Abdus Salam and his like chosen to stay
in Pakistan, and not in Trieste, when alive!
Is Pakistan a fit place for burial only, and not
good enough for living? Is this country no better
than a cemetery? The streets of Jhang that Dr. Salam
once paved later fell to the lot of Sipai-Sahaba,
what a replacement. Pakistan is accused of looking
the other way while Dr. Salam had such an abiding
love for it. This is wrong. The people of Pakistan
have never forgotten Dr. Salam.
Intellectually, Pakistan is, “like a caged
bird”, standing on the grave of dreams, ‘whose
wings are clipped and whose feet are tied’.
Some odd 50 universities of this country amply reflect
this impression. What is true of the Punjab University
is true of Pakistan too. 2,400 students of JUI morally
and intellectually have the ability to stifle 24,000
students of the University. In the words of Prof.
Hasan Askari Risvi, “The role of the University
is to advance knowledge, but at the Punjab University
the quality of education is undermined because one
group with a narrow, straitjacketed worldview controls
it… those who could afford to leave did so;
those who stayed, have learned not to touch controversial
John Donne once wrote, “In every man’s
death I am diminished, for I am involved in Mankind”
So was Dr. Salam who remained involved in mankind;
it is another thing that the people of Pakistan
unfortunately did not form a part of it. What should
they make of this Dr. Salam who is now just a heap