Turning a business eye on Pakistan’s science
27 Feb 2009
Azam Khan Swati became Pakistan’s new Minister of Science and Technology last month.
A U.S.–trained lawyer who built a chain of convenience stores before returning to Pakistan in 2003, Swati belongs to the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Assembly of Islamic Clergy) party, which draws its support from a Taliban stronghold along the northwest border with Afghanistan.
Q: What’s the biggest problem facing research in Pakistan?
Science and technology in Pakistan, other than in the Higher Education commission [and] in health, has been completely
neglected. The missing piece hat I have seen is this: There are no private-public partnerships. … We are not strengthening the industrial capacity f the country.
Q: What needs to be changed?
Our science and technology at the present time only consists of whatever you can see in the library, seminars, and articles.
But the practical application or the execution of such a valuable asset has been completely missing. Look at waterlogging [of soil, which can hurt agriculture]. … [Our research] is confined only to models. … Why have we not taken that model, given it to those feudal lords who own thousands of acres of land, and help[ed] them wake up so we can make a practical difference? We have good engineers, good technicians—we have a good, skilled resource—and we need to see why it is not working efficiently
as compared to India or China.
Q: Is more money the solution?
We do not need research [that does not help] create something useful for this country.… So we are not going to spend
on research that has already been conducted [elsewhere]; we can borrow from those countries.