THE OIC Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation, or Comstech, of which Pakistan is the chairman, has come up with a 10-year plan for reforming science education in member countries. As one of the first steps under the plan, and coming as a bit of a surprise, Islamabad, that has so far been the recipient of grants and other sundry favours, has broken with tradition and offered 100 scholarships to candidates from OIC countries in fields such as medicine, agriculture and engineering. The plan was approved at a Comstech meeting in Islamabad earlier this week. Going by the details that have emerged in the media it is yet another attempt at somehow finding the lost bridge between research and the Muslim world. This country has been among those that have been held hostage by theorists who forbid scientific learning in the name of faith. Those who understand the merits of studying modern subjects with diligence and commitment would want Pakistan to live up to the words of President Mamnoon Hussain and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, spoken during the Comstech sessions, about the country’s desire to lead the initiative.

There could be little disagreement with the minister when he emphasised the need to “have a fresh look” at “the legal frameworks and institutional structures … responsible for promotion of science … and innovation in our respective countries”. These institutions, though vital, will be difficult to sustain without hard work. To turn the latest Comstech meeting from a ritual into an earnest endeavour will require a lot of resolve. The president raised a question the answer to which will determine the extent to which the OIC components are committed to pursuing the path and objectives of the plan. He talked about the need for OIC countries to contribute financially to Comstech’s 10-year push that has been prepared by more than 150 experts. The response to his call will define just how much of an interest the members have in the plan’s successful execution.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2016

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