It is said that the sciences are important for any society to evolve. Scientific discourse, approach and critical thinking should be considered as necessary components. Carl Sagan, the celebrated astronomer and astrophysicist, said, We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology." A rather troubling observation but it happens to be a reality. In the case of Pakistan, this could be seen in its most terrible form. Recently it was announced by CERN (Conseil EuropACopyrighten pour la Recherche NuclACopyrightaire) or The European Organisation for Nuclear Research, that Pakistan has officially been made an associate member of the prestigious organization, after the country had ratified an agreement, signed in December 2014. Amazingly, Pakistan is the first Asian country to have become a member.
The news was not noticed by many, let alone celebrated, because they had not been aware of CERN, and its activities or the significance of Pakistan's induction. Sadly, that's how the state has been with respect to science in Pakistan, where Sagan's words ring nightmarishly true.
Interestingly, however, Pakistan's relationship with CERN goes back to 1994. The two signed an agreement, followed by different protocols. CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) and ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus) were the projects that Pakistan contributed to, afterwards. Pakistan continues to assist in CMS, as well as the ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment). All these, along with contributions to the accelerator developments at CERN, have made Pakistan an important partner. The associate membership has opened a brand new and completely different horizon for Pakistan. Firstly, the country can assist in the governance of the organization through CERN council meetings. This will also enable Pakistanis to work at CERN and join their programs. Apart from that, Pakistan's cooperation with CERN is important in the field of nuclear research in Pakistan.
The country's power crisis, despite being a nuclear country, has been one of the primary issues that it faces. What this membership can provide are solutions to that. Researches on the harnessing of nuclear energy can be executed. A proper study of Pakistan's existing power-generation system with respect to the nuclear sciences can also be put in motion.
Industries could also benefit from this. Advanced technology can be worked upon, pushing the industrial framework into a new era with respect to production. Long-term contracts between CERN and industries can lead to separate applied sciences divisions and evolution of the industrial landscape in the country.
Another important aspect to consider is of those in Pakistan who want to pursue a career in science, but have been finding it hard to pursue their plans. The government should come up with programs to provide a platform to such enthusiasts. CERN's credibility and significance is something that the world recognizes and Pakistan can definitely utilize it. With CERN in the background, Pakistan can pave roads to development in the field of not just nuclear sciences and research but also science in general. This, in turn, will generate much-needed interest towards science and technology. This holds the key to Pakistan's stability.
In the field of science, Pakistan has been lagging behind terribly. Pakistan's highpoint came when Dr. Abdus Salam was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1979. In fact, there is a road named after him which leads to CERN, in Geneva, Switzerland. Sadly, Salam's contribution was brutally disregarded and his intentions of helping Pakistan commence its journey on the road to science were ignored. This tragic course of events marred the highpoint and what could have been can now only be imagined and regretted. Evidently, Pakistan has been going down in the field of science since then. The current education system, where scientific and critical thinking is usually ignored, has failed to produce scientists in general, which only increases the void. The strengthening relationship between CERN and Pakistan can not only help fill the void, but also create opportunities for those students and researchers who want to pursue the sciences and contribute not just to Pakistan but the entire humanity.
In this era of globalization and the age of information, science is a common ground on which all humanity can stand and Pakistan's contribution to that will be positive. Where politics fails, science succeeds.
SUPARCO (Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission) is another entity which can benefit from this and expand its scope. Research departments pertaining to the sciences, specifically nuclear research, particle physics and so forth, at universities across Pakistan, can also be brought together and be made part of the program which will be in direct connection to CERN. The possibilities are seemingly endless.
Pakistan can also use its membership to open avenues for science for its neighbouring countries in the South Asian region. Pakistan can lead these countries and develop a collective think-tank to deal with nuclear research for the prosperity of the region. But all this will come only after Pakistan has set itself on the path that has been speculated. Only then will Pakistan be in a position to go beyond.
The associate membership of CERN is another high point. It has the potential of opening up a rewarding and fascinating space for Pakistan. Opportunities like these do not come always and should be taken advantage of. The government and the concerned authorities, along with those who want Pakistan to move ahead in this field, must come together and look towards a shining future.