Akhlaq Ahmad Tarar is serving as Federal Secretary, Ministry of Science and Technology. Carrying excellent academic background, he proved his mettle while holding key executive positions in various government departments. He has done his Masters degree in Administrative Sciences from George Washington University, USA. In his current capacity, he displayed height of his administrative approach to ensure implementation of national SandT policy; promotion and coordination of research activities. He is also the head of COMSATS Consultative Committee. Following are the excerpts of his interview with Technology Times
How did you find the performance of your Ministry of Science and Technology in the year 2011 or what are your ministrys achievements in the year 2011?
The Ministrys performance during the year 2011 remained satisfactory. However, it still could have been better had we not faced problems due to financial constraints, delay in release of committed funds from the Finance Division, etc. The Ministry has 13 research and development organizations and two universities. With the available funds and resources these organizations made substantial progress. Despite the prevailing economic crunch and consequential financial restraints, the ministry has not conformed upon its vision of performing to become a strategic collaborator of industry through research, technology transfer and their commercialization, as outcomes on services remains undeterred. Today RandD organizations of the ministry are in active pursuit of research pertaining to important areas of science and technology. RandD organizations have been encouraged to commercialize their products and services in order to achieve self-sustainability in over a time of period. The ministry under the financial support of UNIDO has further improved the infrastructure of its organizations working in the field of standards and quality control.
NUST: During the period, NUST remained among the top ranking universities of Pakistan. NUST ranked 84th among the top Asian universities and included in top 400 world universities. The universitys faculty and students had won innovations national and international awards.
COMSATS Institute of Information Technology (CIIT): COMSATS with 7 campuses, 5 faculties, 16 departments and 60 academic programmes have a total students population of 20,000. The COMSATS is aiming to plan 7 new campuses in Karachi, Larkana, Quetta, Peshawar, Gujrat, Toba Tek Singh and Qotli and double its enrolment in coming year.
The Council for Works and Housing Research (CWHR): During the last year, CWHR has developed different RandD Products which are used in the construction of low cost houses. These pre-cast products were provided for construction in the flood affected areas.
The Pakistan National Accreditation Council (PNAC) has now started the accreditation of medical laboratories all over the Pakistan.
PSQCA: In order to strengthen the export capabilities and to facilitate the exporters to overcome technical barriers to trade, has signed various MoUs, agreements with different international organizations for cooperation in the fields of science and technology, standardization, quality assurance, products certification and exchange of technical Information, human resources development and capacity building.
National Physical Standard Laboratory (NPSL) also continues to work towards maintaining the primary standards of measurement and materials on internationally recognized level. NPSL is also the member of Bureau of International Weights and Measures (BIPM) and maintaining the national standards for the measurement and materials acts as the focal point for the standardization and testing needs of country.
•Pakistan Council for Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) is looking forward to launch programmes:
•Rainwater harvesting for drinking purpose in Thar and Kharan deserts of Sindh and Balochistan
•Effective utilization of saline and waste water for irrigation
• Propagation of improved water conservation practices
• Promotion of emerging artificial groundwater recharge techniques
• Establishment of Water Quality Monitoring Laboratories in 81 Districts
National Institute of Electronics (NIE) has recently established the following facilities:
• Software/Advanced Database Development Lab
• Integrated Circuit Design Lab
• Product Testing and Certification Lab
• Communication Engineering Lab
• PCB Design and Fabrication Lab
• Power electronics Lab
NIE under a NECOP Project has undertaken technology development in the following areas:
• Low Power Energy Saver, LED Lighting System
• Communication Systems
• Vehicle Tracking Systems
• Opto-Electronics Technolo gy
• Electronics Lab Equipment
• ASIC and MMIC Design
National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) has over the years, collected multi-disciplinary oceanographic data from the coastal waters and EEZ maritime zone of Pakistan. NIO has high quality digital 2D and 3D multi-channel seismic data and plans to re-process with the assistance of the oil and gas industry, for producing hydrocarbon resource potential maps of Pakistans EEZ. NIO can extend Oceanographic Services for:
• Pre-construction bathymetric surveys of ports and harbours
• Hydraulic studies for pre and post construction of Ports, Fish Harbours, Coastal Power Stations, Desalination Plants
• Bathymetric, topographic and high resolution seismic surveys for the construction of intake and outfall channels for thermal/nuclear Power and Desalination Plants
• Environmental Impact Assessment for development of coastal installations
• Shrimp Hatchery and Farming etc.
PCSIR in collaboration with the Coal and Energy Development Department Government of Sindh, has reviewed the status of Thar Coal Project and initiated the “Design manufacturing and commissioning of pilot plant for conversion of coal gas into diesel/liquid fuel” costing Rs. 989 million, which is presently under consideration.
Other activities of PCSIR include:
• Produced and supplied tons of strategic / industrial / chemicals to Pakistan Ordinance Factory.
• Development of Nano-coatings for surgical/auto and tool industries.
• Development of biocompatible coatings for bio-implant for total hip artho-plasty and orthopedic implants.
• 27 Accredited Labs of PCSIR carried out product certification in the different sectors (auto parts, finished food products, textiles, cereals, sugar, minerals / ores, etc.) mainly for export.
• The training centres of PCSIR located in Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi enrolled 196 students for 3 years diploma courses
• Developed nano and biocompatible coatings used in surgical / auto and tool industries.
Pakistan Council for Science and Technology (PCST) introduced the Research Productivity Award (RPA) scheme and certificates of appreciation and Rs. 29.872 millions were awarded to 499 scientists.
Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF): PSF held SandT exhibitions to create awareness among the public about on the role of SandT in the development of society.
Pakistan Council Of Renewable Energy Technologies (PCRET) has constructed laboratories which will undertake production of 80 KW solar panels per year. It has installed/developed the followings:
• 155 small wind turbines with total capacity of 161KW in Sindh and Balochistan, electrifying 1560 houses and 9-coast guard check posts,
• 500 Solar PV systems with total capacity of 100 KW electrifying 500 houses, mosques, and schools, 90-street / garden lights,
• 4000 Biogas Plants,
• Fabricated 10069 Solar Cells and 1115 Solar Panels,
• Developed 6-models of efficient smokeless cook stoves for cooking and space heating,
Are you satisfied with the policies and role of the telecom regulatory authority for the development of the IT and telecom sector?
The government needs to provide adequate financial resources to science and technology organizations so that the capacity and capability of our scientists and technologists can be enhanced significantly. Pakistan is the country having numerous untapped human resources of its only professional educations on Science and Technology and innovation as well, which is to be utilized so that we turn the wheel of economy and bring prosperity in the country.
Do you agree that Pakistan has a vast potential to excel in the field of science and technology?
Pakistan having the worlds 6th largest population which is blessed with enormous potential to shine in the field of SandT by concentrating on skill development for its availability in the country. We need to invest in the education, SandT and professional training of our youth for uplift of the economy. The SandT innovations policy is in the process of approval and shall be implemented in true spirit. The policy provides guidance and methodology to promote the SandT activities which is for the development of the country with clearly defined objectives. In this policy efforts have been made to keep SandT programmes designed with the mandate of the government which is focused on enhancement of application of research developed into product, process and services that add values for maximum socio economical benefits.
What is the way out to increase the strength of the science and technology sector?
Availability of funds to undertake more projects in the field is the first thing. Then of course the organizations will also increase their quality manpower strength, establish and modernize new laboratories and facilities, the widespread of developed technologies will be enhanced for public benefits and at the same times their applications in organizations like defence.
The ministry has signed various MoUs with foreign countries for collaborative programmes and more funds are needed in order to establish more working arrangements with the SandT organizations of foreign countries.
What your Ministry for Science and Technology has plans for 2012 in terms of targets and achievements?
The ministry will accelerate its efforts for the approval of national SandT innovations policy and then initiate a guiding policy to translate it into socio-economic uplift and improve the performance of SandT organizations which are working without any adequate cover. The ministry would put them under legal cover to facilitate their employees and enhance working of SandT organizations. We have also planned to disseminate low cost technologies to meet the energy requirement in rural areas through Photo Voltaic Systems, Micro Hydel Power Generation and biogas, for their socio economic uplift. There are many projects for the year 2012, which will be implemented, these will contribute towards new research and development and at the same time some of the projects will directly benefit the masses. These projects include:
• Expansion of COMSATS Internet Operation through WiFi Services and RandD of Internet Technologies
• Establishment of Halal Food Certification System
• Up-gradation and Modernization of Pilot Plants and facilities at PCSIR Laboratories at Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi.
• Development and Application of Plant Tissue Culture Technology for the Production of Stress Tolerant Crops by PCSIR.
• Reconstruction and Modernization of Animal House for RandD Activities and Drugs Development / Evaluation by PCSIR
• Establishment of Technical
Training Centre for Precision Mechanics and Instrument Technology, at Jafferabad
• Provision of Safe Drinking Water by Establishment of Water Quality Monitoring Laboratories and Installation of Demonstration Water Filtration Plants
• Water Quality Monitoring in Rural Areas of Pakistan and Installation of Low Cost Water Conditioning and Filtration Units (Phase-II) by PCRWR
• Provision of Energy Sources in remote areas by installation of Micro Hydel Power Plants, Bio gas and Solar applications by PCRET
• Upgradation of PCRET facilities to produce Silicon Solar Modules upto 80 KW
• Research on Disease Resistance through siRNA Gene Silencing Technique in Local Sugar Cane and a project on Molecular Basis of Recessive Hereditary Hearing Impartment in Balochistan and NWFP by CAMB
• Construction of new laboratories of Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority
• Balancing, Modernization and Rehabilitation of National Institute of Electronics (NIE)
• Exploration and Exploitation of Lightweight Aggregates along the coast of Balochistan by CWHR
Strengthening of the Department of Biomedical Material Sciences at COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Lahore and Establishment/Strengthening of Research and Development Activities in Chemical Engineering Department at the COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Lahor.