The pioneering work of Abdus Salam, Pakistan’s only Nobel laureate, helped lead to the apparent discovery of the subatomic Higgs last week. But the late physicist is no hero at home, where his name has been stricken from school textbooks.
Salam’s major and notable achievements include the Pati–Salam model, magnetic photon, vector meson, Grand Unified Theory, work on supersymmetry and, most importantly,electroweak theory, for which he was awarded the most prestigious award in Physics – the Nobel Prize.
Salam, who died in 1996, was a member of the Ahmadi sect which has been persecuted by the government and targeted by Taliban militants who view its members as heretics. After he died his body was returned to Pakistan in 1996 after he died in Oxford, England, and was buried under a gravestone that read “First Muslim Nobel Laureate.” A local magistrate ordered that the word “Muslim” be erased.
In 1974, the Pakistan parliament made a constitutional amendment that declared Ahmadi Muslims as ‘non-Muslims’. In protest, Salam left Pakistan for London. Even after his departure, Salam did not completely terminate his connection to Pakistan, and kept his close association with the Theoretical Physics Group as well as academic scientists from Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC). Pakistani passport applicants must sign a section saying the Ahmadi faith’s founder was an “impostor” and his followers are “non-Muslims.” Ahmadis are prevented by law in Pakistan from “posing as Muslims,” declaring their faith publicly, calling their places of worship mosques or performing the Muslim call to prayer. They can be punished with prison and even death.