Pakistan’s Very Own: Dr. Abdus Salam (As I View Him)
By Mohammad Ashraf Chaudhry
Pittsburg, CA

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 President.”
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 him unreservedly.
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 subjects”.
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 of dust!


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.