ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar announced on Wednesday that Pakistan would award 100 scholarships every year to students of least developed countries for graduate studies in Pakistan in fields of science, agriculture, engineering and medicine.

Addressing the concluding session of the general assembly of OIC Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (Comstech), Mr Dar said that Pakistan would offer more scholarships for training of technicians from the least developed member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in national training institutes of Pakistan.

Pakistan, he said, was planning to set up a synchrotron facility for multi-disciplinary research and it would facilitate the establishment of a medium-sized astronomical telescope in the country for common use of scientists from OIC-member countries.

“We need to resolve to tap all available financial and human resources to execute a comprehensive 10-year science and technology plan formulated by Comstech,” he said.

The minister reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to support Comstech in coordinating collective efforts of Muslim countries to pursue this goal.

“This will also help us achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) agreed upon by UN-member countries,” the minister said.

“Today, we stand at the threshold of yet another defining era, where we are experimenting with artificial intelligence, new materials, nanotechnologies, 3-D printing, new transportation systems, inter-stellar travel and new treatments based on stem cells and decoding of individual genomes.

“These technological breakthroughs are anticipated to have a profound impact on the socio-economic scenario. This, therefore, is the age of both opportunities and challenges,” the minister said.

“With the benefit of hindsight, nations at the forefront of these scientific and technological breakthroughs will be playing a leading role in the comity of nations, both in political as well as economic spheres.

“Unfortunately, the Muslim world has lagged behind discernibly in contributing to these scientific advancements. Therefore, now it is imperative for Muslim countries to take collective cognisance of the situation and come out with innovative solutions to bridge this deficit.

“We need to adopt a multi-disciplinary approach for this purpose, and we also need to have a fresh look on the legal frameworks and institutional structures which are responsible for promotion of science, technology and innovation in our respective countries,” Mr Dar said.

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2016