Prime Minister Imran Khan. Photo: Muhhamad Reza/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Islamabad — Pakistan's government has asked a leading academic to step down as an economic adviser, the ruling PTI party announced Friday, after far-right groups objected to his appointment based on his faith.

Why it matters: Atif Mian, a renowned professor of economics at Princeton University who belongs to the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam, had been appointed to the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) last week and has now agreed to resign. Pakistan is home to roughly half a million Ahmadis, a long-persecuted minority who are not allowed by Pakistani law to refer to themselves as Muslims, facing prison sentences for doing so. They are also frequently the targets of mob violence as well as targeted killings.

  • Last year, hundreds of protesters blockaded a major highway into the capital Islamabad over a minor change in a parliamentary oath, accusing the government of having committed "blasphemy" by softening the language of the declaration against Ahmadi beliefs. During the election campaign in July, now-Prime Minister Imran Khan, the leader of the PTI, frequently raised the issue, saying his rival Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had committed "blasphemy" by changing the oath.
  • This is not the first time Khan has backtracked on appointing Mian to a senior position. In 2014, when he was in opposition, he named Mian as an example of the kind of academic expert he wanted in charge of Pakistan's economy, rather than career politicians. On being informed that Mian was a member of the Ahmadi sect, however, Khan backtracked, saying he only meant his statement to apply to academic experts generally.
  • Last week's announcement that the Princeton professor was to serve on the country's 18-member Economic Advisory Council (EAC) came as a surprise to many, given the earlier controversy. At the time, however, the government defended the decision, with Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry saying his government would not bow down to "extremists."

Go deeper: Read the full Al Jazeera report.

Go deeper

18 mins ago - Podcasts

House antitrust chair talks USA vs. Google

The Justice Department filed a 63-page antitrust lawsuit against Google related to the tech giant's search and advertising business. This comes just weeks after the House subcommittee on antitrust issued its own scathing report on Google and other Big Tech companies, arguing they've become digital monopolies.

Axios Re:Cap talks with Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), chair of the subcommittee on antitrust, about Google, the DOJ's lawsuit and Congress' next move.

30 mins ago - Economy & Business

Boeing research shows disinfectants kill coronavirus on airplanes

Electrostatic spraying of disinfectant. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Boeing and researchers at the University of Arizona say their experiment with a live virus on an unoccupied airplane proves that the cleaning methods currently used by airlines are effective in destroying the virus that causes COVID-19.

Why it matters: Deep cleaning aircraft between flights is one of many tactics the airline industry is using to try to restore public confidence in flying during the pandemic. The researchers say their study proves there is virtually no risk of transmission from touching objects including armrests, tray tables, overhead bins or lavatory handles on a plane.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Senate Democrats block vote on McConnell's targeted COVID relief bill McConnell urges White House not to strike stimulus deal before election.
  2. Economy: Why the stimulus delay isn't a crisis (yet).
  3. Health: Studies show drop in COVID death rate — The next wave is gaining steam — The overwhelming aftershocks of the pandemic.
  4. Education: Schools haven't become hotspots — San Francisco public schools likely won't reopen before the end of the year.