Dr. Abdus Salam nicely covered in Dawn.com

· Asia, Pakistan

Source/ Courtesy: Dawn.com

By Murtaza Razvi

 Mohammad Abdus Salam (1926-1996) was his full name, which may add to the knowledge of those who wish he was either not Ahmadi or Pakistani. The man proudly lived and died as both, and much more, as Pakistan disowned him, in life and in death. The government denied him the honour of a state funeral; the media remained absent from the burial ceremony at Rabwah, which has since been renamed not after Abdus Salam but as Chenab Nagar, just to spite its Ahmadi residents.

The restyled epitaph at his grave near his native Jhang awkwardly reads: “First —— Nobel Laureate”, from which the word “Muslim” has been deleted under court orders; the court, even in its narrow mindedness could have ordered the replacement of “Muslim” with “Pakistani” but that was not to be. This son of Jhang is less known in his own country today than the terrorist Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, even though he had founded and led an abler lashkar (brigade) of some 500 Pakistani physicists and mathematicians over the years whom he arranged to send to UK and US universities on scholarship for higher studies.

He was the guiding spirit and founder of Pakistan’s nuclear programme as well as Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco). The pygmies who after him headed the two institutes he was allowed to set up in Pakistan in his pre-non-Muslim years have since been credited with laurels, and honoured more, even in their dishonourable conduct, as father of this and that, while the Godfather remains conspicuous by his absence in official records.

Dr Salam became the victim of rigid social attitudes and state discrimination against his community when Z.A. Bhutto through an act of parliament declared the Ahmadis non-Muslim in 1974. Heartbroken at the humiliation, he left Pakistan in protest to live in Europe where in 1979 he was awarded the Nobel for his groundbreaking research in theoretical physics; soon roads were named after him in Geneva and Trieste, if not in Islamabad or Jhang. The same year, as it happened, Bhutto was hanged by Gen Zia’s kangaroo court, but the Ahmadis’ predicament was Bhutto’s only legacy that Zia embraced wholeheartedly and built on even further. Despite being given the roughshod, Dr Salam from his institute in Italy, continued to patronise bright Pakistani scientists and students through a scholarship programme. His alma mater Government College, Lahore, which has named its mathematics and physics departments after Dr Salam, and Pakistan Post, which issued a two-rupee stamp to honour him, remain the only state institutions to have acknowledged him.

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  1. Zia H. Shah

    COMMENT: In memory of Dr Salam — By Shahid Saeed, quoting from Daily Times:

    Salam has certainly been honoured far more by countries other than his own and perhaps even disowned by his own country. He was eventually buried in Rabwah but the local magistrate had the tombstone defaced and got the word “Muslim” erased from it. Even in his death, his faith was to be the basis of maltreatment

    On October 15, 1979, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced that the world’s highest award in Physics would be awarded to three scientists “for their contributions to the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles”. One of them was named Abdus Salam and he was born in Jhang in 1926 to a proud working class Punjabi family. He would go on to become one of the most important theoretical physicists of his day, contribute to one of the most important theories in Physics, the Grand Unified Theory and die a proud Pakistani on November 21, 1996 in Oxford after living a life where he was celebrated as one of the greatest minds of the century. His country however would not celebrate him as a hero and his name remain unknown to a large percentage. The tragedy of his treatment at the hands of his countrymen is unparalleled and there is still visible uneasiness and perhaps even fear in accepting him as a national hero.

    Salam left this country once his research work was not appreciated and even frowned upon by the administrators at GC. He had already established himself as a leading theoretical physicist of the day with his doctoral thesis and was given a professorship at Imperial College, aged just 31. He served as the Scientific Secretary of the United Nations Atoms for Peace Conference and remained the Chief Scientific Advisor to the President of Pakistan from 1961 to 1974. He was instrumental in setting up PINSTECH and SUPARCO and remained a board member of PAEC for quite a long time as well. With the IAEA’s support, Salam established the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) at Trieste in Italy since the Italian government made the most generous offer for the establishment of the centre. Throughout his life he championed the cause of his country and remained loyal to the cause of scientific advancement in third world countries.

    When the Nobel Prize was announced, the government of India was the first to invite him and the government of Pakistan only reacted when the High Commissioner in London intimated Islamabad of the Delhi invitation. Out of the 42 honorary doctorates bestowed upon him by universities across the globe, five were from Indian universities. Later, he delivered the convocation address at the Guru Dev Nanak University, Amritsar, in theth (pure) Punjabi and the university had on his request invited four of his primary school teachers as well. The prime minister of India, Indira Gandhi, invited him to tea at her residence, made tea for him with her own hands and sat down at his feet saying this was her traditional way of honouring great people. Country after country, he was welcomed as a state guest, often welcomed by heads of states at airports. In contrast to all this, on his arrival back in his homeland in December 1979 he was received at Lahore, Peshawar and Islamabad by the military secretaries to the governors and the president. The Quaid-e-Azam University had to shift the function of the award of an honorary doctorate to the National Assembly Hall because students of the Islami Jamiat-i-Talaba (the student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami) had protested and disrupted the event. The event in Lahore had to be shifted to the Senate Hall because of similar protests at the University of Punjab. The protesters threatened to murder him. His alma mater, Government College, did not even invite him.


  2. Zakaria Virk

    While Pakistan has not recognized Dr Abdus Salam as its hero, other countries are paying tributes to him. watch the preview of a documentary to be released in Italian & English – Dr Abdus Salam – The Dream of Symmetry. If anyone is interested to read more about this towering scientist of 20th century, please contact me.

  3. Munir Khan

    It was indeed a welcome change to see 2 articles published yesterday on Dr.Salam.Whilst there is little doubt that the treatment of Dr Salam Sahib is lamented in the Pakistani English press,the real change would when the Urdu press also changed its narrative and stopped ignoring him.

  4. Olalekan Monzoor

    I would like to know who is owner of this “THE MUSLIM TIMES” website. It is good and educative. Please reply through the email above.Thanks.

  5. Zia H. Shah

    We have an Editorial team please see our About Us page.

  6. Naseer Ahmed

    Shame on Pakistan.

  7. Naeem Ahmad

    Remembring Dr Abdus salam and his contributions for science and striving alway for Pakistan bring in mind a passage quote from a CERN Courier,Jan/Feb 1997.
    In 1993 at Trieste, Center organize a three dayphysics meeting, atribute to its founder and meeting was attended by collegues, admirersand former students all over the world. One was Frank Yang, whose talk on mirror symmetry in 1956 had so much impressed the young Salam.
    The culmination of the meeting was the award of an honary degree of the University of St Peterburg, Russia.The rector of the University made the trip specially. Salam listed from his weelchair but could not speak. After the formal ceremoney, participants stood patiently in line to offer their own congratulations. There was little response from Salam, but all hoped their message was getting across.
    After famous names, it was turn of younger students. One of the last was a nervous young manfrom Pakistan, a young researcher who had succeeded in gaining on of the highly-prized scholarships to Salam’s center. As he bent toward Salam hunched in his wheelchair, he said, “Sir, I am student from Pakistan. We are very proud of you.” Salam’s shoulders shook and tears ran down his face.
    Source: CERN Courier

  8. Kalimullah Khan

    Wonderful article. This practice must be followed in the Urdu magazines/newspapers as well. It is the duty of the honest journalists to keep their readers fully informed without bias and prejudice.
    Kalimullah Khan- Maryland, USA

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