Sep 7, 2018

Pakistan's government bows to far-right pressure in forcing out adviser

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.

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World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Countries where novel coronavirus cases are falling may be hit with a "second peak" if they relax restrictions too soon, World Health Organization emergencies chief Mike Ryan warned during a briefing Monday. "We're still very much in a phase where the disease is actually on the way up," he added.

By the numbers: Almost 5.5 million people have tested positive for the virus as of Monday, and more than 2.2 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 14.6 million tests). The U.K. is reporting over 36,900 deaths from the coronavirus — the most fatalities outside the U.S.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,498,849 — Total deaths: 346,306 — Total recoveries — 2,233,180Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 1,662,768 — Total deaths: 98,223 — Total recoveries: 379,157 — Total tested: 14,604,942Map.
  3. World: Italy reports lowest number of new cases since February — Ireland reports no new coronavirus deaths on Monday for the first time since March 21 — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: New York stock exchange to reopen its floor on Tuesday — White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 56 mins ago - Politics & Policy

LATAM Airlines files for U.S. chapter 11 bankruptcy

A LATAM air attendant aboard one of the company's planes in March. Photo: Kike Calvo/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

LATAM Airlines Group SA said in a statement early Tuesday the firm and its affiliates in in the United States, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S.

Why it matters: Latam is Latin America's largest airline and its shareholders include Delta Air Lines. CEO Roberto Alvo noted in the statement the coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on the airline industry.