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National Science and Technology Policy

Work on National Science and Technology Policy in limbo
Islamabad, Nov 22: The work on National Science and Technology Policy has come to a halt due to lack of political will and administrative hurdles.

Sources in the Ministry of Science and Technology said that a draft of the policy has been prepared and about to be presented to Cabinet but in the face of resistance from the Minister for Science and Technology Azam Khan Swati further work on the draft has been stopped. It has also been learnt that the minister has been considering to hire a consultant from China while ignoring scientists and experts from the ministry.

After a long period of 25 years, the ministry has been reviewing the National Science & Technology Policy 1984, which failed to achieve its objectives. The constant neglect during successive decades of the status of science and technology institutions in Pakistan has led to a crumbled infrastructure and lack of appropriate human resources. This needs to be drastically changed if Pakistan is to compete economically in the comity of nations as a self-reliant country with its own indigenous capabilities for manufacture of different new products and process.

At present, Pakistan ranks low on the Human Development Index (HDI) ranking at 136 out of 177 countries, because of its poor social indicators. It also has a weak science and technology image based on various S & T indicators such as the number of international research publications, number of researchers per million population, research and development expenditure as percentage of GDP, patents etc.

According to experts the changing global face of science is leading to an increasing multidisciplinary area in which institutions in many countries must participate together. Technology development is now closely interlinked with developments in various scientific fields and we cannot expect to become technologically self-reliant unless we have the necessary strength in basic sciences.

Off the record conversation with officials of the ministry has revealed while knowledge has become an important source of economic power the doors to acquire knowledge in many areas have been closed for developing countries such as Pakistan thereby making it difficult to develop indigenous capabilities and know-how. The intensely competitive industrial sector relies on the acquisition of such capabilities and access to new knowledge.

Science and technology are transforming the future of nations in multifarious ways. Only those developing countries, which can invest in their brightest human resources, can hope to forge ahead and compete globally.

The key role of science and technology as a vehicle for alleviation of poverty, in removal of hunger, tackling of malnutrition, provision of clean drinking water, enhancing livelihood security, reducing regional imbalances, creating opportunities for employment and for creating and environment in which human can live with dignity cannot be denied.

Thus objectives, policies and future plans to integrate science and technology into all our development programmes are crucial. The nation

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Medical college ill-equipped to handle blast cases
Peshawar: Inadequate facilities in the department of forensic medicine and toxicology, Khyber Medical College, have been hampering staff's efforts to provide services to victims of bomb explosions to the desired level.

The department is facing shortage of cotton, cause cloth, instruments, stretchers, surgical gloves, portable X-Ray machine, morticians and technicians. It conducts more than 1,000 autopsies per year with 14 medico-legal officers and demonstrators. The department also faces shortage of auxiliary staff and vehicles.

Forensic sciences are important to support law with scientific evidence in court, but the government is yet to accord attention to this vital sector of investigation.

The college forensic department has no place to keep foul-smelling bodies brought for autopsies. Staff members carry out autopsies without masks and other protective equipment, posing themselves to health hazards. Last year, a technician developed hepatitis C from a prick, who was not given free treatment.

Two posts of associate and assistant professors are vacant in the department. As there are no incentives for them, doctors aren't interested in joining the forensic department.

Efforts and correspondence with federal and provincial governments for expansion of the department for 20 years have been fruitless.

The department was shifted from the Police Hospital by then governor Fazal Haq to the Khyber Medical College in 1990, but it never received special funds and is being run from the KMC budget.

On May 18, 2004, a letter was issued by the Emergency Medical Services Committee on Defence Planning of the Ministry of Health, Islamabad, to the provincial health department to prepare a plan to cope with natural calamities. The department sent a plan to the federal government through proper channel, but nothing happened.

Officials in the health secretariat said the department had several times submitted proposals to provincial and federal governments to establish a mass emergency section on the first floor and a deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) centre on the second floor of the existing building, which had enough space.

Well before that, in April 2001, the KMC principal had submitted a site plan to the provincial construction and works department for the proposed upgradation, but it also went unnoticed.

In 1995, the then provincial governor asked the health department to prepare a PC-1 for upgradation of the department when he lost his daughter in a bomb blast and saw the pathetic conditions in the department. The health department asked the KMC principal in January 1996 to submit a PC-1 regarding upgradation of the department to be made part of the Annual Development Programme, but the plan didn't see light of the day.

Unclaimed bodies are handed over to the municipal corporation for burial without giving ample time to their relatives to identify them due to non-availability of a cold storage facility.

The government had purchased three second-hand freezers with storage capacity of 14 bodies, 20 years ago, which have long gone out of order. There is a plan to purchase three new freezers, each with a capacity of four bodies, soon.

At present, samples are sent to Lahore and Islamabad for DNA tests. The KMC department had proposed establishment of a DNA laboratory to help investigate cases of terrorism in scientific manner and create a genetic bank.

Soon after the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, the Japanese government had contacted the department to establish a DNA centre here but the move also proved a non-starter.

Forensic experts at the department also missed international trainings. Recently, although police have nothing to do with conducting DNA tests, a senior police officer was sent to Japan for DNA course, who retired soon after his return.

In such circumstances, the people suffer as the government doesn't have a backup plan for mutilated bodies from blasts. The bodies are first brought to the Lady Reading Hospital and then sent to the KMC for stitching and restoration and identification, after 7-8 hours.

The KMC forensic department also provides postgraduate training to medical officers in forensic sciences, but the prevalent situation shows it will stop offering the courses because of non-availability of required facilities.

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NBF Children Book Fair concluded
Islamabad: A two-day `Children Book Fair' by National Book Foundation (NBF) displaying unique variety of children literature concluded Saturday.

The fair arranged in connection with Universal Children's Day aimed at boosting reading habits among children as well as entertaining them with story reading sessions, funny cartoons and humorous poems. Prominent publishers and booksellers set up their stalls of books on a wide range of subjects for children, offering up to 30pc discount on the books. While NBF offered 40pc on its books.

NBF Managing Director Mazharul Islam, who himself is an acclaimed writer of short stories, highlighted the importance of book in a child's life. "Books stand their ground and give us a deep knowledge and clear perception of things in this age of computer sciences," he said. He counted a number of initiatives taken by NBF for the promotion of reading culture among children.

Children enjoyed themselves with the story 'Sadako ki Dua', Nigar Nazar's funny cartoons and Ahmed Hatib Siddiqui's humorous poem "Yeh bat samajh main Ayee Nahi." They were also amused to see their favourite characters Chacha Chhakan, Tot Batot and Watayo Faqeer that appeared on the stage one by one during a talk by Dr Iftikhar on "Popular Characters of Children's Character." A large number of students of the twin cities along with their teachers and parents visited various stalls and showed keen interest in books put on display there.

The exhibition was inaugurated by Federal Minister for Education Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani.

The federal minister announced to give award to the most prolific child reader every year and commended the NBF book-oriented initiatives including setting up book clubs at hospitals, railway stations, jails and airports. He urged the children to establish live contact with the books. "By spreading light of education, can we counter darkness of ignorance, intolerance and terrorism," he said. Writers of the children stories Parveen Haq, Fouzia Minahallah, Dr Iftikhar Khokhar and Rizwana Syed Ali, Cartoonist Nigar and poet Ahmed Hatib Siddiqui delighted children by reading out stories and poems.

NBF Book Ambassadors Farah Hussain, Shabnam Shakil and Rana Seerat also shared their childhood memories with children and asked them to get maximum pleasure out of reading books. NBF Book Ambassador Farah Hussain and Shabnam Shakil, Rana Seerat, Fouzia Minallah, Parliamentary Secretary for Education Gul Mohammad Jakhrani also participated in the fair.

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Islamic finance seminar
Islamabad: A day-long seminar on Islamic Financing would be held here on Tuesday, November 24 to discuss various issues related to Islamic financing in current economic scenario. The seminar has been organised by Association of Chartered Certified Accounts (ACCA).

Among other issues, the topics including fundamental principles of Islamic banking and finance, Islamic contract theory and key contracts, Islamic banking and investing would be discussed thoroughly in the seminar.

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Another school blown up in Bara
Bara: Militants blew up a portion of the Government High School, Alam Gudar, in Bara subdivision in Khyber Agency early Saturday.

Tribal sources informed that a group of militants attacked the Government Boys' High School in Alam Gudar, took hostage the watchmen at gunpoint and fixed four explosive devices at different places of the school building which went off one after the other, destroying the primary section completely.

The blasts also damaged the school hall, principal office and some classrooms of the high school portion. The explosions also rocked the whole area and sent a wave of fear among the residents of nearby villages. No group or individual claimed responsibility for the act.

This was the first boysí school destroyed by militants in Bara subdivision. The militants, it may be added, had earlier destroyed three girls schools in Kalanga Akakhel, Karegar Garhi and recently one in Ghazi Gul Killay. The news


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