ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Honour and Ignore

Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel Prize brings to mind the rather sorry experience of physicist Mohammad Abdus Salam, the first Pakistani to win a Nobel.

A Pakistani winning a Nobel Prize: This year, MalalaYousafzai has entered a very select club. There’s only one other member. Amid all the celebration of this achievement, his story should be remembered now, for the warning it offers to the Nobel committee, the optimistic international community, the hard-working activists, the Twitter-happy politicians, and all those hopeful schoolgirls cutting cakes in Mingora. It might, on the other hand, provide some comfort to those who are unhappy with the decision.

The first Pakistani to win a Nobel was Mohammad Abdus Salam, who shared the physics prize in 1979. He was highly educated (Government College, then Cambridge), his work highly regarded; as a teacher in Lahore, he shaped a generation of the country’s scientists; working for the government in the 1960s, he played a major role in the development of the nuclear industry. However, like Yousafzai, Dr Salam received his Nobel in exile. He left the country in 1974, in protest against the second amendment to the constitution. That document, passed by the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, declared Ahmadis like Dr Salam to be non-Muslims in the eyes of the Islamic Republic, legalising the discrimination and persecution that the community had suffered from “orthodox” Muslims since its founding in the 1880s.

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