- Associated Press - Friday, September 7, 2018

ISLAMABAD (AP) - The government of Pakistan’s newly elected prime minister removed a minority Ahmadi Muslim from a recently established economic council because of opposition from hard-line Islamists, a spokesman said Friday.

Critics say the move indicates that Prime Minister Imran Khan has bowed to religious figures opposed to the appointment of Atif Mian to the Economic Advisory Council because of his faith. Khan set up the 18-member council recently to seek guidance for improving the country’s ailing economy.

The council included 11 economists and seven government officials.

A spokesman for the Ahmadi sect, Saleem-ud-Din, confirmed Mian’s removal, saying he will be available should Khan’s government seek his services in the future as “we love our country too much.”

Angered by the move, Asim Ijaz Khawaja, a Sunni Muslim economist who teaches at the Harvard Kennedy School, also quit the council. He said Khan’s move saddened him. “Personally, as a Muslim I can’t justify this,” he said about Mian’s removal.

Meanwhile, dozens of Islamists rallied in the eastern city of Lahore against Khan for appointing an Ahmadi as member of the council. They urged Khan to refrain from such acts in the future.

The Ahmadi sect was founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in the Indian subcontinent in the 19th century. Ahmadis are a tiny minority in Pakistan.

Their homes and places of worship are often targeted by Sunni militants who consider them heretics. Pakistan declared Ahmadis non-Muslims in 1974.

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