ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has informed the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that it cannot hold the first ever Comstech summit for security reasons.

Pakistan had offered to host the summit in 2013 and the event was to be held next month. Thirty-six member states have already confirmed their participation. The summit was originally to be held in April of this year but was postponed on directions from the Prime Minister’s Office after the terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar.

The latest delay came after the terrorist attack on Badaber Military Complex in Peshawar. The Foreign Office has decided “not to take a risk with the security of the participating dignitaries”.

This may now mean that the secretariat of the OIC’s Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (Comstech) will be moved to another OIC member state.

Officials call cancellation ‘embarrassing’, say Comstech secretariat may be moved out of Pakistan

Comstech was established by the OIC summit in 1981 to build on indigenous capabilities in science, technology promotion and cooperation in relevant areas. Its secretariat was established in Islamabad in recognition of Pakistan’s contributions to science and technology.

The 12th OIC summit in Cairo, 2013, mandated Pakistan and Comstech to hold the first OIC summit in Islamabad, devoted only to Science and Technology.

In a summary prepared by Comstech for the government, the secretariat said postponing the summit and moving the venue to another country was “extremely embarrassing for Pakistan, especially now when invitations have been sent out to the heads of 55 countries”.

The Comstech summary to the government said, “The OIC is furious. The OIC secretary general is deeply embarrassed. He has visited 16 OIC countries in the last couple of months to invite state heads to the Islamabad summit and is contacting more heads as well.” It warned that Pakistan will lose control of the contents and implementation of the programme prepared for the next ten years.

The summary prepared by Comstech said the programme for 2016-25 had also been prepared after extensive consultations and meetings between 157 scientists from 20 OIC countries.

A senior official at the Ministry of Science and Technology said, “We just sent out a very bad message to the international community, especially when almost a dozen heads of state have confirmed to attend the summit on invitation from the president of Pakistan, who is chair of Comstech.” The official said Pakistan would lose $200 to $300 million worth of investment in the field.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also suggested holding all upcoming Comstech meetings in Jeddah, including ministerial level meetings of the General Assembly. The ministry recommended taking the agenda of cooperation and advancement in science and technology among member states to the OIC summit when it meets in Turkey.

But an official at the Ministry of Science and Technology said the OIC Secretary General Iyad Ameen, had rejected all the proposals as ‘inappropriate’. He said, “The OIC secretary general has hinted at moving the Comstech Secretariat out of Pakistan and into another member country”.

Other than member states, Islamic Development Bank; the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation; World Bank; the UN Environment Programme; leading scientists from the US, Russia and France have also confirmed their participation.

The summit was particularly important as non-OIC countries had also shown an interest to attend the summit and see Pakistan showcase its developments in science and technology.

The postponement becomes even more painful as 2015 was selected to hold the science and technology summit to coincide with the UN declaration of 2015 as the Year of Light as well as celebrate contributions of Ibn Al-Haytham who was considered the father of modern optics.

Coordinator General Comstech Shaukat Hameed Khan, who is trying to salvage the summit said, “Pakistan needs this event to revive basic science, nurture thinking minds, build a culture of science, make people employable, make advances in education and ensure the security of water, food and agriculture.”

Shaukat Hameed hopes the PM will reconsider the postponement when he returns to Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2015

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