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Pakistan prime minister pledges science boost

10 June 1999

[LONDON] Pakistan's prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif last month announced plans for a 1 billion rupee (US$22 million) investment in science and technology. The announcement was made on the first anniversary of Pakistan's nuclear tests last year.

About half of the money is expected to be spent on research, and research infrastructure -- including scholarships for 300 additional PhD students in Pakistani universities, and for 100 students who will be sent overseas. The remaining funds will be spent on science education.

Sharif has pledged to provide one dedicated science teacher for every government school. He has also promised to set up polytechnics in each of the country's administrative divisions. The government will also set up a committee to recommend within one month ways of giving more autonomy to research institutions.

"One year ago we broke the shackles of dependence on foreign technology and conducted successful nuclear tests." said Sharif. "We should now focus our attention to make Pakistan an economic power."

The initiatives are the most comprehensive - and ambitious - that Pakistan has seen for a decade. They have also come as a surprise for many in Pakistan's science community as until now, the present Muslim League government - like its predecessor -- had shown little interest in science.

Many scientists are uncertain whether the extra funds will materialize, as similar promises have not been honoured in the past. But one senior scientist says he believes that this latest initiative is different, as it originates from the prime minister's inner circle of advisers, and not the lower ranked Ministry of Science and Technology.


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