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Dr Atta-ur-Rehman delivers his lecture at Karachi University.—White Star
Dr Atta-ur-Rehman delivers his lecture at Karachi University.—White Star

KARACHI: Eminent scientist and former science minister Dr Atta-ur-Rehman on Thursday called for coordination between social and natural scientists to adopt ways and means to bring about peace in the world.

“Technology is a double-edged sword and it needs to be used for the betterment and welfare of mankind and not for their destruction,” he said delivering a lecture at the Distinguished Lecture Series organised by Karachi University’s faculty of social sciences at the varsity’s Arts Auditorium.

“To earn peace for human beings,” said the former chairman of the Higher Education Commission and professor emeritus, “coordination between social scientists and [experts in] natural sciences is essential,” he said while responding to a question about why scientists had not done much for establishing peace in the world.

The lecture was titled ‘Science, technology and innovation: imperatives for socio-economic development’.

Dr Rehman compared the GDP and economic growth rate of Singapore and China with Pakistan and attributed their development to the effective utilisation of human resources through quality education.

“If Singapore’s exports are $400 billion, it is unfortunate that Pakistan’s exports are only $22bn because Pakistan lacks in exporting technology and value-added goods.”

He said limited budget spent on education, science and technology in Pakistan was less than the amount spent on construction of Orange Line in Lahore.

He emphasised the need to focus on developing creative minds so as to bridge the gap in knowledge, science and technology.

“Universities are measured on the basis of research work that is done and not on the basis of the high enrolment or buildings.”

He stressed the importance of developing research culture by providing incentives to faculty members and students. He said that instead of increasing the number of universities, emphasis should be laid on ensuring quality control and standard education to students.

Dr Rehman shared some steps that were taken by the HEC under his leadership when 11,000 students were sent abroad for higher studies.

He also talked about the steps that were taken by the HEC in terms of ranking universities to develop a spirit of competition among them. He expressed grief over dramatic decline of HEC in the recent years. Despite this, he was happy to share the ‘threat’ Pakistan had posed to India in the field of science and technology.

He said new innovations would revolutionise the world, which included quantum computing, tailoring of new animal and plant species, ‘golden rice’ with pro-vitamin A to compensate for vitamin-A deficiency, growth of

crops round the year, identification of obesity genes, reversal of aging process, re-engineering of polio virus to cure cancer, and 3D printing/bio-printing of human organs, including kidneys and liver.

He spoke about the availability of devices through which blind people could see and drive cars, real-time translation devices through which communicating with a speaker of any language was possible even if one did not know that language. He also introduced the audience to nanotechnology, e-textiles, and ebb textiles.

Dr Atta-ur-Rehman talked about the inventions of other countries, but also shared his ongoing research on human brain, sharing one interesting discovery that thoughts were not abstract but actually made up of atoms and molecules. According to him, education was being revolutionised in the form of video books.

He emphasised the need to realise the importance of science and technology for economic empowerment. He also encouraged young scholars to play an active role in their field to promote research culture in Pakistan.

In his concluding remarks, Dean Faculty of Social Sciences, Dr Moonis Ahmar said the thirst for knowledge was seemingly missing among the people of Pakistan. He advised the youth to focus on education and make efforts to excel in their field without wasting their time as “we cannot afford to remain poor and backward”.

Dr Ahmar paid tribute to Dr Rehman who he considered a real source of inspiration for the country and the University of Karachi.

Later, the dean presented a plaque to Dr Atta-ur-Rehman.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2017