Myth and Reality of Dr. Abdus Salam
by Akber Choudhry
A distinguished Pakistani scientist and Nobel Laureate, Dr. Abdus Salam, is being used as a propaganda tool by the Ahmadiyya and sometimes unnecessarily vilified by some fundamentalist quarters.
Has Pakistan Honoured Dr. Salam?
Dr. Salam is well-regarded among students of physics and mathematics in Pakistan. His alma mater, Government College University, has established the highest post-graduate school of Mathematics in his name, as well as a chair in Physics. Here is an incomplete list of honours:
- Abdus Salam School of Mathematics at GCU
- Abdus Salam Chair in Physics at GCU
- Abdus Salam Museum at the National Center for Physics
- Sitara-e-Pakistan for contribution to science in Pakistan (1959)
- Nishan-e-Imtiaz for outstanding performance in Scientific projects in Pakistan (1979) - Highest Civilian Honour
- On arrival in Pakistan in 1979, he was treated as a state guest and a government helicopter brought him to Rabwah, where I was one of those present to receive him
- Abdus Salam Prize at Centre for Advanced Mathematics and Physics
- Numerous symposia and conferences
- Stamp in commemoration
A Nobel laureate in the sciences is rarely a folk hero and neither Dr. Salam nor Dr. Raman or Dr. Chandrasekhar will have cities or airports named after them or their birthdays declared public holidays. A comparison of the honours bestowed by India on these two Nobel laureates would be a good exercise.
Dr. Salam said Good-Bye to Pakistan after 1974
Dr. Salam is a cult hero among the Qadiani Ahmadiyya as their leadership have little else to keep their followers in thrall. Until 1973, Dr. Salam held the highest positions in the sciences in Pakistan. In 1974, Dr. Salam resigned from all government positions and wrote bitterly to Prime Minister Bhutto after the Pakistani parliament passed the constitutional amendment that declared Ahmadis to be non-Muslim for purposes of the law. In other words, he couldn't be loyal to a constitution that declared him non-Muslim, which may be an individually noble act but not likely very endearing.
Another cause may have been the Samdani Commission's report on the 1974 events where organised violence on a passing train was used by the Qadiani Ahmadiyya in the town that they controlled. The Commission's findings are still sealed but are widely believed to have concluded that the relations between the Qadiani religious leadership and prominent Qadiani Ahmadis in sensitive government posts was too close for comfort.
After the 1965, the future prime minister of Pakistan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, famously declared that "we will eat grass but we will develop the bomb". Dr. Salam was put in charge of all the scientific programmes that would achieve this objective. Even in the 1960s, Dr. Salam spent most of his time outside Pakistan, and Bhutto was convinced by one of his political associates, Shaikh Khursheed Ahmed into appointing Khursheed's brother Munir Ahmed as director of PAEC (Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission).
Dr. Salam's self-imposed exile and the ascendancy of one his sub-ordinates, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, put the atomic programme into the military sphere and the rest is history.
Was Dr. Salam an Active Ahmadi?
Dr. Salam had little contact with the Ahmadiyya community until he won the Nobel prize in 1979, as he lived in Italy and England and was married to a British professor who was not an Ahmadi or a Muslim.
Dr. Salam's Tombstone
A lot of media inches have been written about removing the word 'Muslim' from Dr. Salam's tombstone. Here is the tombstone inscription in Urdu and in English:
The Urdu inscription reads: "Pakistan's first Nobel Laureate", which stands as it is.
The English inscription used to read: "the first Muslim Nobel Laureate for his work in Physics". The English sentence was badly worded and factually incorrect to begin with as there had been Muslim Nobel laureates before. Without getting into a debate about the law in 1974 which declared Ahmadis as non-Muslims -- the very law that prompted Dr. Salam to break relations with the Pakistan government -- it may have not complied with the law of the land. The English could have easily been a translation of the Urdu.
As it stands, it is even more absurd: "the first Nobel Laureate for his work in Physics". It should be corrected by the Qadiani Ahmadiyya, who are the custodians of the graveyard.
Myths by Islamic Extremists
Fundamental Islamic extremists have also conjured up baseless stories about Dr. Salam but they have little say in the standing of Dr. Salam within Pakistan's educational and research circles.