The Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) was created with the merger of the Pakistan Standards Institution (PSI) and the Central Testing Laboratories (CTL). As I was a leading Quality Management consultant in the country at that time, I was appointed Director General (DG) in the year 2002 to lead the newly created organisation. I travelled to Islamabad to meet the Secretary Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) with a request to shift the head office to the capital as required under the constitution. Those were difficult times in Karachi as Altaf Hussain and MQM were calling the shots, which included extortion, blackmail and even murder. No one was spared; important individuals like Hakim Saeed of Hamdard, Shaukat Mirza of PSO and Shahid Hamid of KESC were ruthlessly murdered through target killings. Secretary Sahib agreed with me, but wanted me to first take charge and then move the request through official channels for shifting the authority. As I was quite aware of the sluggish movement of files, I denied the offer, for which the ministry was very unhappy. Later, I applied for the position of Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF); during the interview, despite my professional credentials, the denial of the earlier offer came up. I had to give an undertaking that this time I would accept the position on the condition of being offered an MP-1 scale of pay. A promise was made but not kept despite reminders. Throughout my term of office (August 2002 to August 2005), I worked in Grade 22 at the starting salary level. When I brought up the issue with the ministry, I was asked to self-approve my scale through the Board of Trustees (BOT) of PSF which I chaired; I turned this down as it constituted a serious conflict of interest.

During my tenure at PSF, being a technologist, I kept in touch with newly emerging organisations like PSQCA, the Intellectual Property Organisation of Pakistan (IPOP) and the Pakistan National Accreditation Council (PNAC). I had the opportunity to visit Malaysia to study their technology development framework. One organisation, called the Standards and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia (SIRIM) stood out. Every new product that is introduced in the market has to be tested and standardised by this institution. All operations are under one roof. Compared to SIRIM our PSQCA was nowhere close. While PSQCA lacked the required laboratories, the Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR) did not have industrial linkages. A merger of the two could provide an effective platform of technological advancement. A proposal was formulated to merge the two and create a similar entity called the Standards and Industrial Research Institute of Pakistan (SIRIP). The concept has been discussed at length with every Minister including Senator Shibli Faraz but remains in the files. It took two decades to move PSQCA to Islamabad, hopefully SIRIP will become a reality sooner than that.

In a world driven by technology, only change is permanent. Timely decisions are needed. An approximate decision on time is better than a correct outcome after its relevance. In two decades, the world has changed. PSQCA is already handicapped and seriously lags behind. Now that it is being shifted to the capital, it is time to revisit the entire framework for technological advancement, otherwise the effort will remain futile. The headquarters of PCSIR were also shifted around 2004. Now the Science complex on Constitution Avenue, right across the PM Secretariat has three organisations (PSF, PCSIR, MOST). The CPEC secretariat was also established there under the leadership of Lt Gen (R) Asim Bajwa, but after his resignation as Chairman, it is now leaderless. Khalid Mansoor, a former associate of the Minister of Planning currently takes care of CPEC activities as SAPM (Special Assistant to the PM) but does not have executive authority of the Chairman. As the famous saying states, ‘the fault lies in the stars’, in this case, it is MOST that has failed to provide direction. During my tenure, the Secretary of the Ministry always complained about my focus on research leading to commercial products rather than scientific papers. He never answered my simple question, “why was ‘technology’ included in the nomenclature of the ministry?” Till today, my point remains unanswered. Organisations like PSQCA, IPOP, PNAC, PCSIR, PSF, COMSTECH, COMSATS etc. are all needed but with a clear roadmap to achieve application and commercialisation of technology leading to wealth generation which has been widely ignored. For the much-needed socio-economic development, the sleeping technology giant has to be awakened under a technological development roadmap carefully planned and implemented by technologists.

Dr Farid A Malik

The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation, email: fmaliks@hotmail.com