Dear Imran Khan, I understand why Atif Mian had to go

Published: September 13, 2018

In a country where Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of Salmaan Taseer, is considered a hero, it’s not time for real heroes like Atif Mian to be in the limelight.

Dear Khan sahib,

I am a fan and have been for some time now.

I was a fan when you played cricket, I even became a journalist defending you some 31 years ago. A letter was published where a lady named Parveen Akhtar criticised you for wearing a hat at the Ascot races. Being an idealistic teenager, I wrote back defending you, my letter got published and the rest, as they say, is history.

But then again, nothing in life is happenstance. Hence, here I am writing a letter to you, not just on my behalf but also on the behalf of millions of fans who are very hurt and disappointed at this time.

You fell right before the elections in 2013, and with you fell all our hopes. We waited for five years, patiently, quietly and many a times entirely perplexed and exasperated by your stances and approach to attacks on minorities, amongst other issues. We scratched our heads, sometimes found a reason to justify your behaviour, and other times put it down to political inexperience and political expediency.

Regardless, we stood by you!

And then came July 25, 2018, you won, our excitement was immense, our realistic expectation measured.

To us, your history and commitment to cause played a key role as to why we supported you. Hence, here we are, wondering how did we get to this place in our politics, where we have to tell ourselves that letting Atif Mian go, at this point in time, is the only choice.

Mr Prime Minister, I was thrilled to see Fawad Chaudhry defend the selection of Mian to a journalist. It gave me immense hope. His statement implied that you are the prime minister for all, especially the weak and vulnerable in our society. And it is that very ideal that led me to pause and ponder over why you changed your decision. And maybe very grudgingly, I found a justification for why you asked Mian to resign.

Let me frame my argument, and it’s not an argument I give with any kind of glee. Instead, it disappoints me that our society is so devolved, bigoted, intolerant and inhuman, and so far removed from evolution and education, that I have to justify why asking Mian to resign at this time was maybe politically expedient, and may have averted a tragedy.

Pakistan is not the Pakistan it was decades ago, it is certainly not the kind of Pakistan the Quaid wanted, and the one Allama Iqbal dreamed of. It has somehow lost its way, and has become harsh, radicalised and a far cry from the goodness that is inherently godly and spiritual.

Let us remember the issue of Khatam-e-Nabuwat, and the dharna of November 2017 called by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief, Khadim Hussain Rizvi. His followers gathered in a sit-in in Faizabad for weeks. Rizvi was one of the supporters of Mumtaz Qadri, was responsible for his post-hanging glorification, and is a self-proclaimed defender of the Khatam-e-Nabuwat issue. He created unrest all over the country, and chaos ensued. With the selection of Mian, maybe chaos would have erupted again.

It took decades for Pakistan to be this radicalised. We were a progressive, forward thinking, inclusive and modern state. But that changed, because the mindset of the middle class changed. Societies are not considered evolved because the elite think a certain way, societies are considered evolved when the middle class and lower middle class are progressive, and ours is far from it.

I sound like an apologist when I find justification for why Mian had to go at this moment in time, I do, and I absolutely feel sickened by it. He should not have had to go!

Why did you choose him in the first place, if you did not have the gumption to stick by your decision? You had known about his religious leaning for some years now, hence that was no surprise. Was it mismanagement, weakness, or did you not have the foresight to see that you may have to revert your decision? Did you bite more than you could chew?

Or was it all of the above?

And then I tell myself, in a country where Qadri, the killer of Salmaan Taseer, is considered a hero, it’s not time for real heroes like Mian to be in the limelight.

Standing at this juncture, I find myself saying that maybe this battle can be fought at another time, and that no loss of life can ever be termed collateral damage. In a country where there are so many wrongs that need to be made right, and the following I say with a heavy heart, this is a wrong that can be made right at another time.

But Mr Prime Minister, please realise that we are your base followers, and this is a very big issue for us. We need our minorities to be entirely respected and included and not discriminated against.

You keep emphasising, and touting, that you need the support of overseas Pakistanis; that is your mantra, you call us an asset! Imagine if we were discriminated against on the basis of our religion in our adoptive homelands? If we could not hold competitive well-paying jobs on those grounds, if our children could not attend public or private schools because they are Muslims, if we could not go to our mosques in peace, or practice our faith with confidence?

And most importantly, we could not earn the foreign exchange that you are appealing for us to give back to the motherland, because our adoptive country refused to provide us the opportunity, and discriminated against us for keeping the faith we do?

I need an explanation for it, Sir?

So, it’s okay for us to send foreign exchange to our motherland because the country we live in protects rights of minorities. Whereas you are unwilling to give the same protection to the minorities in Pakistan, how is that even justifiable?

You gained success through storytelling, idealism and service to the nation.

You got elected because of the votes.

But you will only make an impact when you become a leader, stick to your decisions with authority, conviction and courage. You will be judged by history in how firmly you stood your ground in the face of wrong.

I’m hoping that your decision to hire Mian was a step in the right direction, having him resign may be politically expedient at this time, but do not make a habit of backing down on issues which really matter, and shape the philosophy and mindset of generations to come.

I will end by saying, that while writing this blog, I put my pen down to run some errands, and in my car Watan ki mitti gawah rehna was playing, a tear jerker melody sung by the incomparable Nayara Noor. I cried listening to that song, because suddenly I pictured the children in the video of the song; children who the country belongs to, children who deserved Mian and his vision for tomorrow’s Pakistan.

I hope one day those children can experience a progressive Pakistan.


A patriot

Bisma Tirmizi

Bisma Tirmizi

The author lives for the simple pleasures and her musings over a cup of tea almost always find a way to be the written word. She also writes for Her book 'Feast With A Taste Of Amir Khusro', published by Rupa Publications, is available in stores now.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • kalyan chatterjee

    I think you may find some answers in Hussain Haqqani’s book ‘Re-Imagining Pakistan’. Unfortunately, the founders of Pakistan may be revered but they led the country into the dilemma that it is now facing. And they are also partly responsible for the situation that its western neighbour finds itself in for it encouraged similar forces, though belonging to a different religion to rise.Recommend

  • Striver

    Great article representing the thoughts of many Pakistanis.Recommend

  • Muniba Agha Khan

    Bisma you have spoken on behalf of many. We hope to god that the rightful place is given to people regardless of their faith and background in our country. We have to be above all this and our leader has a responsibility to show that this can be done as it is the right thing to do!Recommend

  • muhammad riaz

    but they are not the minorities, first they have to admit that we are non muslim then demand a respect like minorites……Recommend

  • Bilal Hassan Zaidi

    I fully agree with the writer. Like on all other fronts you have to do things on war footings same is the case with radical bigots. Even the highly educated will stand with these people. Anyways you have to come up with something out of box solution like Ata Turk may be if required.Recommend

  • Didar Ali

    Thank dear you have spoken through many broken and bleeding hearts. My first disappointment came when Khan sab, mention Basha Dam instead of Diameer Basha dam, I am from GB, I simply can not take this. Secondly in his first speech, he did not bother to mention, GB, which is home to most of the water source for Indus River, home to Karakoram Hightway linking China with Pakistan the beginning of CPEC. Home to international tourism. He talked about tourism in Pakistan which is good but without mentioning of GB, what went wrong with him???Recommend

  • Parvez

    Brilliant ……on the issue of Atif Mian I feel the religious right both in politics and out, wanted to test Iman Khans resolve. One could call it political mischief with the country being the end loser. Their timing was perfect…..with only weeks in office and issues big and small on his head, I think he opted out of this fight, hopefully to take it on later. This was seen as lack of resolve on his part and the optics was more than bad. I too was disappointed ….. but then that’s nothing new and this too shall pass…..hopefully for a better tomorrow.Recommend

  • Saleem

    What you wrote I totally agree. I m diehard pti guy and I was not expecting this from ik. I am not taking his side but I think may he does notvwanted to get into this controversy in the beginning specially when American secretary and Chinese foreign minister was visiting so to avoid he took this decision. It is wrong but not end of the worldRecommend

  • Saleem

    Didar I think let him breathe and we should give him margin of error and we should think big and his intentionsRecommend

  • Karachiite Insafian

    I agree 100% with what you said. Hopefully this was just a tactical retreat. Naya Pakistan is a Pakistan where everyone regardless of religion is treated equally.Recommend

  • NavedSiddiqi

    A refreshingly honest piece, expressing hope and expressing fear. Thank you for writing this.

    Good Leadership. It’s what the country more truly voted for. And leadership requires a series of strong and necessary steps to be taken, and things to be said, that will be uncomfortable.

    Pakistan needs some tough love, not blind adulation, from its voices overseas who understand the important relationship between a country’s social progress and its commitment to civil liberty.

    But time doesn’t wait for leadership, and there for me lies a huge worry.Recommend

  • Kamran Bukhari

    You are contradicting yourself. In the same sentence you say they’re not a minority, yet you want them to admit that they are. Mian earned his spot fair and square for the position. Having to self-identify your faith for that spot is not the pre-requisite. The best person for the job did not get the job. It is not the loss of that person, its our loss. While you live in your ‘bubble’ of self-definition, someone else might be bottling you in their own version of ‘they’ to discriminate against you. Good luck, and hopefully you enlighten your mind outside of the bubble.Recommend

  • Kamran Bukhari

    Dont take it personally dear. His speech was address to a lot more people than just ‘Didar Ali’Recommend

  • Syed

    I wish I could have written this letter.Totally believe the religious beliefs and practises are the personal matters of individual .The State should be obliged to extend equal opprtunity to its citzens. The only way to progress is merit based opportunites for the citizens of the country.I was a staunch supporter of of IK but he got defeated by clerics preaching hatred. So with a heavy heart good bye IKRecommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Wow, so Ahmadis are not a religious minority in Pakistan!
    Any proof of that?Recommend

  • Usman wayn

    Dear writer you have raised the voice of million of IK followeres who have sames thoughts. Equality and respect to all faiths. I will say IK has rightly withdraw. We as nation not ready to be at this level. Socity values and morals come with time and it takes decades. We will reach back to our Quaid’s dream. Pakistan for all FAITHS In Sha Allah.
    We simplly dont shut our voice.Recommend

  • jssidhoo

    Imran needs to learn a very basic principle of management , never give an order that you are not sure you can have implemented. Taking back orders weakens your supporters and strengthens the opposition .Recommend

  • Patwari

    See, contrary to your toxic hate, the Paks respect Gandhiji. He was a great leader.
    The day they killed him, was the long slide of Hindustan into bitterness, hate and
    carrying the baggage 1,200 years of Muslim rule. That’s your karma, your pramukh
    viphalataon. No escaping that.
    The world sees it in Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Ladakh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West
    Bengal, Aunachal Pradesh. …that adds up to 64 insurgencies. Plus the Mother of all
    Bharati insurgencies, Kashmir.
    May whatever gods you pray to , have mercy on you.Recommend

  • rumi52

    On paper Mian was a good appointment but in reality it was not. Someone in the PTI should have realized Pakistan is not yet ready for this. Mian had to go for the greater good, at this stage PTI needs to concentrate on developmental issues such as health and education. The opposition needs petty excuses to bash the Imran Khan and distract the public from real issues. PTI needs to slowly change the atmosphere in Pakistan. As they say in English, Rome was not built in a day. Maybe in 10 years time the appointment of an Atif Mian will not be controversial.Recommend

  • kalyan chatterjee

    you are quite right. Only one error – I have no toxic hate. We all must learn to face facts.Recommend

  • kalyan chatterjee

    I am not talking from Hindu-Muslim angle. None of us – Hindus, Muslims or any other religion follower – should be slaves of extremists and fundamentalists. If I have got it right, Atif Mian had to leave under pressure from Muslim fundamentalists in Pakistan. In India there are Hindu fundamentalists who would like to treat Muslims as slaves. Those Hindus who oppose this and would like everyone to be treated equally regardless of religious persuasion are branded as ‘urban naxals’ (leftist) and are being put in jails.Recommend

  • Mehwish Saleh

    Hope Pakistan get progress and development.Recommend

  • Gauravi Pal

    A very thoughtful blog that came straight from the heart. Bravo!Recommend