Of late, the Reko Diq controversy has been an issue that one wanted to get to the bottom of. The one person who is at the forefront of the debate is nuclear scientist Dr Samar Mubarakmand. I was hesitant when I emailed Dr Samar for a meeting and wondered whether my email would even get through to him — so I was pleasantly surprised when I got an immediate response.
Mazing through the relatively unending security checks in the prime minister’s secretariat, I finally wound my way to the planning commission building. Tucked away in a corner, I was ushered into Dr Samar’s office without being asked to wait for hours, shattering another oft-heard myth that one has to wait for ages if meeting someone in the prime minister’s secretariat.
Seated behind his research-papers strewn mahogany desk, Dr Samar comes off as a humble man. He put me at ease immediately, by telling me that he had cancelled all his appointments for the morning and was more than happy to answer any queries that were unsettling me.
He started off by recounting the days from his youth when, out of pure hard work and sheer genius, he was fortunate to finish his doctoral training in physics at Oxford. One notion was always supreme in his mind: He wanted to return and serve Pakistan right from the start, and this belief never faltered. Coming back, he started his own lab, which grew exponentially and ultimately resulted in Pakistan becoming a pioneer of nuclear and missile technology. He mentioned candidly that critics say that Pakistan’s missile programme is a remnant of North Korea’s missiles, but the truth is that Pakistani scientists have proven their own indigenous expertise time and again, with the unveiling of even more sophisticated and reliable defence systems than those of the North Koreans.
The Thar Coal reserves were found decades ago, but to-date no substantial progress had been made, until he stepped into the picture. He explained that the coal is too deep and not feasible to be mined and that is why they came up with a novel technique of underground combustion, whose preliminary results are going to come in the next couple of months. This whole pilot study at Thar was done using indigenous talent and expertise. He was asked whether Pakistan possessed enough expertise to mine and utilise these resources and he replied that it had already mastered techniques for mining uranium as a part of the nuclear programme and this whole business was just an extension of using the same skill-set, albeit for a different material and setting. Whenever you have a professional doing a job, it is bound to produce results, and Pakistan has been blessed with enough scientists that it can do the things it wants done.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 24th, 2011.
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