The Nobel winner Pakistan won’t celebrate

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Oct 12, 2014 11:24 IST

The 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for Malala Yousafzai has been officially welcomed in Pakistan, but there is one Pakistani Nobel Prize winner the country continues to ignore and scorn: Abdus Salam, an Ahmadiya Muslim, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979.

The Ahmadiya community reportedly faces persecution in Pakistan, where the constitution was amended in 1974 to declare them non-Muslims. The Ahmadiya faith was founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in the 19th century in Qadian town of Gurdaspur district.

“I am delighted to hear that Pakistan has gained its second Nobel. It is controversial but we can’t deny she is an amazing young girl,” said Ahmad Salam, the London-based son of Abdus Salam. However, he added the Pakistani establishment never gave his father his due.

“Pakistan still does not acknowledge my father in any official capacity. His name doesn’t appear in any history or science books. He has one small hall in Government College, Lahore, named after him, so there isn’t really any widespread recognition that he was a lifelong Pakistani or that Pakistan should be proud of him,” he added.

Ahmad Salam said his father was very touched by the warmth and affection he received during his visit to India after winning the Nobel Prize, and recalled that the then PM Indira Gandhi had offered him Indian citizenship.Other countries also offered him citizenship, but he remained a Pakistani until his death in 1996.

The 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded jointly to Abdus Salam and Harvard University professors Sheldon Lee Glashow and Steven Weinberg. The Pakistani scientist’s work played a major role in the success of the God particle project in 2012.

“Officials from Pakistan’s atomic and other agencies would travel all over the world to seek my father’s advice behind closed doors, but officially they never engaged with him, Ahmad added.

The “ultimate insult”, he said, was when authorities removed the word Muslim from his father’s tomb in Pakistan, which initially read ‘First Muslim Nobel laureate’ on the orders of the local magistrate.

The highest official representative at the funeral was the local police inspector.

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