Pak's only Nobel Laureate uncelebrated at home
He was Pakistan's only Nobel Laureate whose pioneering work laid the bedrock for the recent discovery of the 'God particle', but all physicist Abdus Salam's son remembers is insult and scorn for his father back home because of his Ahmadiya background.world Updated: Jul 15, 2012 19:57 IST
He was Pakistan's only Nobel Laureate whose pioneering work laid the bedrock for the recent discovery of the 'God particle', but all physicist Abdus Salam's son remembers is insult and scorn for his father back home because of his Ahmadiya background.
As the world observed with awe the recent announcement of the discovery of what is likely a new subatomic particle, Ahmad Salam, the London-based investment banker son of the Nobel laureate, is bitter about the 'hypocrisy' with which Pakistan treated its top scientist.
"There is a consistent hypocrisy in Pakistan. When it suited them, they took advice from him on nuclear and science issues, but would never be seen to engage with him officially," Ahmad told PTI in London.
Abdus Salam, is ignored and even scorned in Pakistan, whose citizenship he continued to hold until his death in 1996, despite offers of citizenship from India and other countries.
"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. I was told that when some cabinet ministers wanted to attend his funeral, they were told not to", he said.
The 'ultimate insult', he said, was when the word 'Muslim' on his father's tomb in Pakistan, which initially read 'First Muslim Nobel Laureate' was erased on the orders of the local magistrate.
The highest official representative for the funeral was the local police inspector.
Pakistan's constitution was amended in 1974 to declare that Ahmadiyas were not considered Muslims under the country's law.
All Pakistani passport applicants are required to sign a section saying the Ahmadi faith's founder, Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad who died in 1908, was an 'impostor' and that his followers are 'non-Muslims'.
In contrast, Ahmad Salam said his father was very touched by the 'phenomenal warmth and affection' he received during his visit to India after winning the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1979, and recalled that both Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi had offered him Indian citizenship.
Abdus Salam had close links with India, mainly with the academic community. He was honoured by many Indian universities with doctorates and invitations to address their convocation ceremonies.
During a visit to India, Ahmad said his father went to Punjab to meet his Mathematics teacher who was bed-ridden, and when they met, Salam took off his Nobel medal and placed it on his teacher's chest, and said: "This is for you".
The teacher had taught him in undivided India.
"Even now there is so much affection for my father in India. Manmohan Singh (Prime Minister) worked with my father in the South Commission, and just last year he spoke in glowing terms about him during a speech at the Third World Academy of Sciences in Hyderabad," Ahmad said.
Abdus Salam made a significant contribution in developing the theoretical framework that led to the recent success in the quest for the elusive Higgs Boson.
Abdus Salam and Steven Weinberg, with whom he shared the Nobel Prize, independently predicted the existence of a subatomic particle now called the Higgs boson, named after a British physicist who theorised that it endowed other particles with mass.
Ahmad runs a charity organisation set up by his father, the Mohammad Hussain Hajra Hussain Nobel Talent Fund, to help meritorious students to come and study in the UK.
The Nobel laureate's family is also closely involved with Imperial College London, where he set up the Theoretical Physics department.
First Published: Jul 15, 2012 19:54 IST