Dr. Ishfaq Ahmed’s contributions to Pakistan are dotted with firsts. He, as the president of the Pakistan Atomic
Energy Commission, laid the foundations for co-operation between Pakistan and CERN in the Large Hadron Collider. He was instrumental in conducting the Pakistani Nuclear tests in 1998 as a reply to India’s Pokhran-II tests. He also created the first centre for Experimental Physics in Pakistan, the National Centre of Physics, in 1998. He has also been honoured with the Sitara-e-Imtiaz, the Hilal-e-Imtiaz and the Nishan-e-Imtiaz. All in all, it’s a wonderful career to have had. What comes across strongest in his career however, is not a drive due to the love of science, but due to a love of Pakistan.
Dr. Ishfaq Ahmed’s achievements all seem to point towards bettering Pakistan, strengthening Pakistan and preparing Pakistan for the world stage. His involvement in CERN wasn’t merely due to its international repute; though that was definitely a major factor; it was due to his inspiration: Dr. Abdus Salam.
Under Dr. Abdus Salam, Dr. Ahmed saw Pakistan gain access to nuclear emulsions from CERN to study subatomic particles such as pions and kaons for the first time. He also saw Abdus Salam’s theories being verified at CERN and him eventually winning the Nobel Prize in Physics. When he visited CERN in 1994 as the head of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission he saw that the world was moving fast in the fields of science and that Pakistan could not be left behind. He wrote that
“I had only one wish – that my own country, Pakistan, should somehow become involved in scientific collaboration with CERN.”
CERN and Pakistan: a personal perspective (October 5th, 2003)
Another surge of patriotism overtook him when he heard of the Pokhran-II tests. He was in Canada at the time, giving lectures on quantum radiation (did I forget to mention he has written papers on quantum electrodynamics?). He left for Pakistan immediately and ended up personally supervising and naming the Chagai Nuclear tests.
If that wasn’t enough, after the Kashmir Earthquake of 2005 he founded the Centre for Earthquake Studies to better prepare for the natural disaster if it occurred again.
In light of the recent floods and droughts that have hit Pakistan, it would be foolish to disregard Dr. Ishfaq Ahmed’s creation of the Global Change Impact Studies Centre. The centre studies climate change and global warming and works in collaboration with the National Met. Department, WAPDA, the National Agricultural Centre etc.
We Pakistanis tend to have a very specific definition of the word “hero” in our minds. It’s either a soldier going in to the field of battle or a pilot swerving around enemy jets in a secluded air field and taking them out. Well I think a scientist who has done all he can to make sure Pakistan is prepared to face the world head on in the field of knowledge deserves no less recognition from us.
By Yousuf Mehmood