January 29, 1926 Pakistan was blessed with a great & genius who aimed to change the future of physics in the country and to some extent, he was quite successful in doing so. Dr. Abdus Salam was a Pakistani theoretical physicist who is globally appreciated for his contributions in the field of theoretical and particle physics and for the role that he played in the promotion of scientific research but this great one is unacknowledged in his own country.
Abdus Salam was born on 29 January 1926 in Santokdas in the Sahiwal District (but grew up in Jhang), to Chaudhry Muhammad Hussain and Hajira Hussain, into a Punjabi family which converted to Islam in the 12th century and had a long tradition of piety and passion for learning (his own grandfather, Gul Muhammad, was a religious scholar apart from being a physician). Salam’s father was an education officer in the Department of Education of Punjab State in a poor farming district. The family originating from southern Punjab, Abdus Salam naturally spoke Punjabi with a Saraiki accent.
Dr. Abdus Salam was awarded the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics, along with Glashow and Weinberg, For their contributions to the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles, including, inter alia, the prediction of the weak neutral current. Becoming so far the only Pakistani to be honored with such a prestigious award.
Dr. Abdus Salam belonged to the Ahmadiyya sect that is regarded as a Constitutional Kafir (Non Believer) in Pakistan. After the amendment in the 1973 constitution that declared his sect as Non-Muslim. Considered to be one of the greatest minds produced by Pakistan, Dr. Salam was a devout member of the Ahmadi community. He was associated with various scientific developmental projects undertaken by the government of Pakistan during the period 1950-74. He quit and left Pakistan after the Ahmadiyya community were declared non-Muslims (in 1973 constitution). Though, on surface Government of Pakistan gave him Sitara-e-Imitiaz, Nisha-e-Imtiaz, Pride of Performance and issued a commemorative stamp by his name too, but overall he was not owned by the country in its true spirit. Unfortunately, Dr. Abdus Salam was not rightly honored in Pakistan and the sole reason behind this is his religious beliefs. He used to make visits to the country on the invitation of his friends but did not reconcile with people who pushed to declare his community as non-Muslim. This fact is further reiterated when Dr. Abdus Salam was given a sadly ordinary welcome with the absence of high level government dignitaries after winning the Nobel prize upon his arrival at the airport.
Today one can hardly find his name in any textbook, his achievements are not highlighted in a way he deserve, and altogether the country by and large denounced one of its prides over religious beliefs. Sadly, for many people of Pakistan Dr. Abdus Salam is a person who’s from Ahmadiyya Community So they wont let him be the legendary physicist.
However, Salam has been commemorated by Pakistan’s noted and prominent scientists, who were also his students. Many scientists have recalled their college experiences. Ghulam Murtaza, a professor of plasma physics at the Government College University and student of Salam has puts it:
“When Dr. Salam was to deliver a lecture, the hall would be packed and although the subject was Particle Physics, his manner and eloquence was such as if he was talking about literature. When he finished his lectures, listeners would often burst into spontaneous applause and give him a standing ovation. People from all parts of the world would come to Imperial College and seek Dr. Salam’s help. He would give a patient hearing to everyone including those who were talking nonsense. He treated everyone with respect and compassion and never belittled or offended anyone. Dr. Salam’s strength was that he could “sift jewels from the sand””.
Ishfaq Ahmad, former chairman of the PAEC and a lifelong friend of Salam recalls:
“Dr Salam was responsible for sending about 500 physicists, mathematicians and scientists from Pakistan, for PhD’s to the best institutions in UK and USA”.
In August 1996, the former chairman of PAEC and lifelong friend, Munir Ahmad Khan and met Salam in Oxford. Munir Ahmad Khan (late), who headed thenuclear weapons and energy programme, said:
“My last meeting with Abdus Salam was only three months ago. His disease had taken its toll and he was unable to talk. Yet he understood what was said. I told him about the celebration held in Pakistan on his seventieth birthday. He kept staring at me. He had risen above praise. As I rose to leave he pressed my hand to express his feelings as if he wanted to thank everyone who had said kind words about him. Dr. Abdus Salam had deep love for Pakistan in spite of the fact that he was treated unfairly and indifferently by his own country. It became more and more difficult for him to come to Pakistan and this hurt him deeply. Now he has returned home finally, to rest in peace for ever in the soil that he loved so much. May be in the years to come we will rise above our prejudice and own him and give him, after his death, what we could not when he was alive. We Pakistanis may choose to ignore Dr. Salam, but the world at large will always remember him.”
As much as Pakistan needs to progress in fields of science and research, it needs to evolve as a neutral and tolerant society where people are acknowledged for their efforts regardless of their faith, caste, creed and race. We must give Salam To Salam.