As much as I would like to say that this does not matter, that this does not undermine the immense contribution to Pakistan’s scientific history that Dr Abdus Salam made, I cannot. This matters. This EVAPORATES my blood, not only boils it. Dr Abdus Salam was the sole Pakistani representation during the 20th century in the international scientific landscape of nuclear physics. Even though this man, captain Safdar, didn’t even read the resolution he so proudly passed in NA and referred to the wrong building for renaming, the fact that such discrimination is even given space in our parliament appalls me.
Most of these parliamentarians do not even know what Meson Theory means, what he spent decades working on. But the issue is more personal than that.
Growing up, wanting to become a STEM major, me and a lot of other young children looked upon him as our sole inspiration for pursuing STEM fields in our professional education. That we might someday also be able to grace the halls of Imperial, Oxford and Cambridge and make discoveries and inventions of things that previously seemed impossible. But Dr Abdus Salam showed us more than that, he showed us that persistence, absolute persistence and consistency are the only ways forward. Your talent does not count for anything if you are not consistent with your work. Every single interview that he has ever given shows his humility, his soft spoken words a testimony that soft people can indeed conquer the world, even if they themselves do not believe that they are capable of such a thing. That being a minority in a country where you are hated, spit upon, trampled upon, was still not enough to reduce his love for his motherland. We, as Pakistanis, have forgotten that this land was found to protect the rights of minorities, that the white in the flag has significance, that Jinnah’s first speech in Pakistan was on pluralism and how this land should serve as a shelter for the oppressed, the shunned, minorities of Indo-Pakistan. This land is not just the sunni Muslim’s land.
Al-Khazini is not Abdus Salam. Al-Khazini was not Pakistani, did not speak Punjabi, did not live through the trials and tribulations of post-colonial Pakistan. Did not feel like an outsider amongst people of a different race, much like a lot of us feel, and did not wear the Punjabi turban proudly when receiving his Noble Prize for Physics. He is not someone I can tell my future Punjabi generations about and say, listen, sometimes even the greatest things seem impossible, but look, this Punjabi speaking man from Pakistan beat all odds and established himself as one of the most prominent scientists of the 20th century and so can you. You are the same colour, race and religion as him. Dr Abdus Salam represents us, the potential middle class Pakistani people have and will continue to have, the ones who will still speak Punjabi if the entire world labels them as paindu, the ones that will persevere through everything, the ones that will be living testimony to the fact that if you are curious enough about the universe, the universe will open itself up to you.