The Ambassador of the State of Palestine to Pakistan, H.E. Mr. Walid Abu Ali, visited COMSATS Headquarters on Wednesday, 11th March 2015, and held a meeting with the Executive Director COMSATS, Dr. Imtinan Elahi Qureshi. He was accompanied by the First Secretary/Cultural and Educational Attaché of the Palestine Embassy, Mr. Husni Abu Ghoush. Also present in the meeting were senior officials of COMSATS Headquarters, including Advisor (Programmes), Mr. Tajammul Hussain and Director (International Affairs), Dr. Majid Khan.
Welcoming the Palestinian diplomats to the Headquarters, Dr. Qureshi expressed his desire for academic cooperation and engagement with the State of Palestine. He stated that it is about time that Palestine joins COMSATS as one of its Member States to benefit from the international activities of the organization. Ambassador Ali thanked Dr. Qureshi for inviting him to the Headquarters for a briefing on COMSATS. He expressed keen interest in learning about the programmes of the organization, especially in the area of education.
Dr. Qureshi highlighted the role of COMSATS as an intergovernmental organization, promoting the cause of science-led sustainable development in its 21 member countries. The fact that COMSATS is an apolitical, areligious organization having no association with regional political grouping was also elucidated. He noted that the leaders of COMSATS, at the time of its establishment, were very conscious of the fact that scientist-to-scientist contact was very important; so they created a network of centres of excellence, which primarily are national R&D institutions from developing countries with the capacity to serve their national research interests and also undertake scientific cooperative projects internationally. In this regard, Dr. Qureshi cited examples of some of COMSATS’ Centres of Excellence, including National Mathematical Centre (NMC), Nigeria, for offering excellent programmes in mathematics; Bangladesh Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR), Bangladesh, for having a reference laboratory for chemical metrology; and International Centre for Physics (CIF), Colombia, for its research activities in the inter-disciplinary fields involving physics and biology, chemistry, earth sciences, etc. He underscored the contributions of COMSATS as a facilitator of South-South cooperation through its Network of Centres of Excellence, which he informed has about 10,000-15,000 researchers. In this regard, the significance of COMSATS Coordinating Council’s annual meetings was highlighted, which keeps the Network vibrant in mobilizing its human and technical resources for the organization’s international programmes and activities.
The Executive Director COMSATS stated that the organization also has an impressive record of institution-building, since two of its flagship projects in Pakistan, the COMSATS Institute of Information Technology (CIIT) and COMSATS Internet Services (CIS) are now well-established institutions in the country. CIIT, it was informed, now has over 35,000 enrolled students and is biggest institution in terms of number of Ph.D faculty members.
It was noted that CIIT was established under the umbrella of COMSATS in 1998, and granted degree awarding status later in year 2000 on the basis of guarantees given by COMSATS in view of its international resources. Dr. Qureshi informed that in order to sustain the growth of the Institute, it was deemed appropriate to seek government funding for the Institute. Under the present set up, the operations of the Institute are independently run by the Rector of the Institute, while the government representative in the form of Federal Minister for Science and Technology is Chancellor of the Institute, and the Executive Director COMSATS the Chairman Board of Governors of CIIT.
The Ambassador raised the possibility of providing scholarships to Palestinian students. He informed COMSATS’ officials that in spite of being under occupation, Palestine pays highest attention to education. The Ambassador was informed about the offer of hundred post-graduate scholarships at CIIT allocated for students from COMSATS’ Member Countries. It was noted that the State of Palestine can benefit from such an offer by joining COMSATS as its Member State.
A letter of invitation for the State of Palestine to join COMSATS as a Member State, along with COMSATS’ Draft Accession Agreement and other relevant documents, were handed over by Dr. Qureshi to H.E. Mr. Walid Abu Ali for onward submission to the honourable Palestinian Minister for Education and Higher Education, H.E. Ms. Khawla al-Shakhsheer. The Palestinian Ambassador pledged to forward the Membership documents to the relevant Ministry and assured to personally follow-up the case of Palestine’s membership to COMSATS.
With regard to post-graduate scholarships to Palestinian students, the Executive Director COMSATS expressed his willingness to process the case of four to five students as a first batch under the scheme after Palestine’s Membership of COMSATS. Dr. Qureshi also encouraged a group of two or three faculty members from Palestine to visit CIIT. He also expressed his desire that the senior faculty members from CIIT should also visit Palestinian universities to develop academic linkages.
At the end of the meeting, the Executive Director presented a set of COMSATS’ publications to the Palestinian Ambassador. H.E. Mr. Ali once again thanked Dr. Qureshi for inviting him for the meeting and sharing useful information on the benefits of enhancing future cooperation between COMSATS and the State of Palestine. He appreciated the idea of Palestine becoming COMSATS’ Member State and pledged his full support in this regard.