Finally a documentary on Pakistan’s first Nobel Laureate Dr. Abdus Salam. And a bloody good one! An extraordinary man and a brilliant scientist who used to work 15 hours a day.
But what was painful for even a battle-hardened Karachiite like me was how Pakistan ignored its illustrious son who loved the country with a passion. He had to go into exile because of threats to his life and legalized state oppression. Dr. Salam put his name forward as DG of UNESCO, but Pakistan rejected his name and nominated Shahebzada Yaqub Khan who was defeated in a humiliating manner. Time and again he reached out to Pakistan to be rebuffed. Just because of his Ahmadi faith. And then his agonizing decline and death.
Even his gravestone has not been spared. Although the filmmakers did not point it out, the words “the first Muslim Nobel Laureate” inscribed on his tomb had the word Muslim chiseled out.
Post documentary, many elderly people were clicking their tongues and sighing over Dr Salam’s mistreatment by successive governments so this question came to mind: where was your disapproval when Dr Salam and his community of Ahmadis were being hounded out of Pakistan? 30, 40, 50 years later you may say “oh that’s so sad. Shouldn’t have happened.” But did you stand up against the inhumane treatment of your fellow citizens when the riots happened?
At that time and even now, it is said, “oh these fundos were the minority but we liberals are the majority!”
But of what use is a majority who sits on their backsides on leather sofas drinking green tea and vodka, watching Netflix, Instagramming food, spending it’s Sundays at the beach. Or at the madrassah or majlis or mall or cafe or coffee party. Unconcerned. Easy to tut-tut decades later but stay silent when oppression occurs against anyone be they Ahmadi, Shia, Sunni Brelvi, Hazara, Pushtoon, Sindhi, Punjabi, Hindu, Christian, Parsi et al.
What could be more damning than this: today this much-trumpeted about “majority” has to huddle in private locales to see this documentary because it cannot be shown publicly. Why? Because sentiments will be inflamed.
And now the majority is afraid of the minority because they didn’t have guts back then and they don’t have guts now.