First Pakistani Nobel Prize Winner Shunned By His Nation

The first Pakistani Nobel Prize laureate Professor Abdus Salam, pictured in London, England after he heard the news that he was joint winner of the 1979 Nobel Prize for Physics.

Pakistan’s only Nobel laureate, Abdus Salam, who led the discovery of the subatomic “God particle” has his name banned from textbooks, and is no longer considered a hero in his nation.

Salam was one of the scientists who “predicted the existence of a subatomic particle now called the Higgs boson, named after a British physicist who theorized that it endowed other particles with mass,” says physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy, who worked with Salam. It is known as the “God particle” because its discovery was crucial in comprehending the universe’s early evolution.

Born in pre-partition India in 1926, Salam won more than a dozen honors and prizes, including the Nobel Prize in 1979 for his research on the Standard Model of physics, which explains how fundamental forces control the dynamics of the universe. He also contributed to Pakistan’s efforts of building a nuclear bomb, during its early stages.

However, for his identification with the Ahmadi religious sect, his honors have been ignored by leaders, textbooks, and media in the nation of Pakistan.

“The way he has been treated is such a tragedy ... he went from someone who was revered in Pakistan, a national celebrity, to someone who could not set foot in Pakistan.' –Pakistani physicist”—Pervez Hoodbhoy.

In 1974, Parliament amended the constitution, declaring that Ahmadis were no longer considered Muslim under Pakistani law, due to their belief that their spiritual leader Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was a prophet, and therefore contradicting the Islamic belief that Muhammad was the last prophet.

After the amendment, Salam moved to Europe in pursuit of work in an environment free from threats, and eventually created a center for theoretical physics in order to help physicists in the developing world.

Salam’s accomplishments have been greater celebrated by other nations, including its neighbor India.