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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

39 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's latest executive order: Buy American

President Joe R. Biden speaks about the economy before signing executive orders in the State Dining Room at the White House on Friday, Jan 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden will continue his flurry of executive orders on Monday, signing a new directive to require the federal government to “buy American” for products and services.

Why it matters: The executive action is yet another attempt by Biden to accomplish goals administratively without waiting for the backing of Congress. The new order echoes Biden's $400 billion campaign pledge to increase government purchases of American goods.

Tech digs in for long domestic terror fight

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

With domestic extremist networks scrambling to regroup online, experts fear the next attack could come from a radicalized individual — much harder than coordinated mass events for law enforcement and platforms to detect or deter.

The big picture: Companies like Facebook and Twitter stepped up enforcement and their conversations with law enforcement ahead of Inauguration Day. But they'll be tested as the threat rises that impatient lone-wolf attackers will lash out.

The pandemic could be worsening childhood obesity

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The 10-month long school closures and the coronavirus pandemic are expected to have a big impact on childhood obesity rates.

Why it matters: About one in five children are obese in the U.S. — an all-time high — with worsening obesity rates across income and racial and ethnic groups, data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey show.