In Pakistan, science and technology serve as an important part of national practices, and extreme national identities. From the 1996s till present, science and technology have been linked to the national ideology and practical functioning of Pakistan, notably the Pakistan Armed Forces, while science and technology is a growing and flourishing field in Pakistan.
Since its independence from Great Britain in 1947, the newly found nation of Pakistan has seen a large influx of Muslim Indian scientists, engineers, doctors, and technicians assuming an active role in its fields of science and technology. Liaquat Ali Khan (office: 15 August 1947 – 16 October 1951), the first Prime Minister, invited hundreds of scientists from India and made various reforms to initiate improvement in higher education and scientific research.
Pakistani scientists won acclaim in several fields. They were at the cutting edge of science in fields such as mathematics and in several branches of physical science, notably theoretical and nuclear physics, chemistry, and astronomy. Professor Abdul Salam, a theoretical physicist, was the first and to date (November 3, 2013) the only Pakistani to have won the very prestigious Noble prize in 1979, in the category of physics. Furthermore, technology is mostly high developed in the fields of nuclear physics and Explosive Engineering, where the arms race with the India convinced policy makers to set aside sufficient resources for research. Due to a crash programme directed by Pakistan Atomic Energy Commision (PAEC), Pakistan is the seventh nation to have developed an Atomic bomb. Pakistan first publicly tested its devices on 28 and 30 May 1998.Pakistan launched Badr-I followed by Badr-II in 2001. Since the 1980s, the space programme dedicated itself to military technologies (Space weapons programs and integrated missile systems), and maintains a strong programme developed for military applications.
An aftermath of the 1971 Indo-Pakistan Winter War was that Bhutto increased scientific funding by the Government by more than 200%, mostly dedicated to military research and development. Bhutto, with the help of his Science Adviser Dr. Salam, gathered hundreds of Pakistani scientists working abroad to develop what became Pakistan’s atom bomb. This crash programme was directed at first by Dr. Abdus Salam until 1974 and then directed and led by Munir Ahmad Khan from 1974 until 1991. For the first time an effort was made by the government when Pakistan’s citizens made advancements in nuclear physics, theoretical physics and mathematics. In the 1980s, General Zia-ul-Haq radicalized the science by enforcing pseudoscience – by his Muslim fundamentalists as administrators – in Pakistan’s schools and universities. One of the premiers was Mazhar Mahmood Qurashi, a physicist educated in the United Kingdom, and Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, a nuclear engineer, also educated in the United Kingdom. They played a major role in radicalizing the science in Pakistan. General Zia-ul-Haq later promoted Dr.Abdul Qadeer Khan to export the sensitive industrial (military) technologies to Libya, Iran, and North Korea. Because of government control, academic research in Pakistan remains highly classified and unknown to the international scientific community. There have been several failed attempts made by foreign powers to infiltrate the country’s research facilities to learn how much research has progressed and how much clandestine knowledge has been gained by Pakistan’s scientific community. One of the notable cases was in the 1970s, when the Libyan intelligence made an unsuccessful attempt to gain knowledge on critical aspects of nuclear physics, and crucial mathematical calculations in theoretical physics, but was thwarted by the ISI Directorate for Joint Intelligence Technical (JIT). From the 1980s and onward, both the Russian intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency made several attempts to access Pakistan’s research but because of the ISI, they were unable to gain any information. From the period 1980 to 2004, research in science fell short until General Pervez Mushrraf established the Higher Education Commission (HEC) which heightened the contribution of science and technology in Pakistan. Major research was undertaken by Pakistan’s institutes in the field of natural sciences. In 2003, the Ministry of Science and Technology of the Government of Pakistan and the United States Department of State signed a comprehensive Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement that established a framework to increase cooperation in science, technology, engineering and education for mutual benefit and peaceful purposes between the science and education communities in both countries. In 2005, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) joined with the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) and the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan to support the joint Pakistan-U.S. Science and Technology Cooperation Program. Beginning in 2008, the United States Department of State (DOS) joined USAID as U.S. co-sponsor of the program. This program, which is being implemented by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences on the U.S. side, is intended to increase the strength and breadth of cooperation and linkages between Pakistan scientists and institutions with counterparts in the United States. However, with the unfavorable situations, research declined. In 2011, the government dissolved the HEC and the control of education was taken by governmental ministries.