Pakistan becomes CERN’s associate member

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Pakistan on Friday became the formal associate member of CERN – European Organization for Nuclear Research, bagging an opportunity for its scientists and engineers to benefit from scientific expertise at the prestigious institution.

Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif termed it a “landmark moment in the development of science in the country” as he witnessed, along with CERN Director General Dr Rolf Heuer, the signing of the final accession document leading to CERN’s associate membership, at the Prime Minister’s House.

The membership will help Pakistan in establishing a sustained and institutionalized relationship with CERN. The potential benefits include training of scientists, engineers and students, getting commercial contracts from CERN for local industry, acquiring of old and used equipment from CERN and provision of high-profile international science projects.

Addressing the signing ceremony, the prime minister thanked the CERN director general and CERN Council for recognising the hard work and the capabilities of Pakistani scientists, engineers and technicians, and for allowing Pakistan to become a part of unique and leading institution of scientific research.

“Today’s event is also a testimony to the fact that whenever provided an opportunity, the people of Pakistan are capable of standing up to any international standard,” he added.

Nawaz Sharif urged the Pakistani scientists not to limit the CERN associate membership as a goal, rather take it as a means to pursue and acquire new scientific and engineering knowledge. He asked them to use the opportunity to interact closely with international community and gain expertise in science and technology. He said the associate membership would also provide an opportunity to the country’s industrialists and businessmen to participate in the construction and engineering work being carried out at CERN.

The prime minister expressed satisfaction that the contribution and work of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and National Centre for Physics had been recognized by CERN. He urged the Pakistani business entrepreneurs to get involved and take advantage of this opportunity.

Nawaz Sharif said his government was committed to the well-being and prosperity of the people despite facing many challenges. He stressed the need for hard work to eradicate poverty from the country and to raise the living standard of the people.

“I firmly believe that it is only through education and advancement in science and technology that we can aspire to bring peace and prosperity to people of Pakistan,” he added.

The prime minister said collaboration with CERN could offer numerous opportunities to young scientists and engineers to benefit from state-of-the-art expertise available at CERN and the associated European laboratories. He asked the PAEC chairman to work closely with the Higher Education Commission and the Ministry of Science and Technology to develop and chart out a future programme so that the country’s youth could derive maximum benefit out of this opportunity.

The Pakistan-CERN collaboration, which started in 1994 with the signing of an agreement between Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and CERN, has been growing steadily. Pakistan had applied for the CERN Associate membership in February 2013.

In response, CERN had sent a task force to evaluate Pakistan’s science and technology base and industrial capabilities in early 2014. It evaluated the existence of solid basis in elementary particle physics, sufficiently developed industry and will of the national authority to support basic research. The CERN task force on all three accounts concluded that Pakistan fulfills the criteria.

By 2010, CERN membership was exclusively restricted to European countries. However, it is now open to non-European states as well. The CERN members include 20 European countries.