KARACHI: Pakistan is heading towards the manufacturing of lithium batteries for solar power with the support of Chinese companies and this would boost the country’s efforts to meet its growing energy needs. This was stated by Science and Technology Minister Fawad Hussain Chaudhry during the inaugural ceremony of a four-day symposium that opened at Karachi University (KU) on Monday. A large number of local and international scientists are participating in the 7th International Symposium-cum-training course on Molecular Medicine and Drug Research organised at Dr Panjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research. “There has been a 600 per cent increase in the development budget of the ministry of science and technology. The ministry also plans to create strong coordination among the country’s best 15 research institutions,” he said. The minister also welcomed the delegates and said that he was pleased to see a large number of foreign scientists participating in the symposium. “This major science event is indeed an important step towards a better understanding of diseases at the molecular level and towards development of safe and effective drugs,” he said, while asking students to study the ideas of philosophers and social thinkers to know the science of society. Later, the minister spoke to journalists on various issues, one of them being the ongoing sit-in protest by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl in Islamabad. The minister regretted that Pakistan’s recent initiative to highlight the Kashmir issue in the international community got weakened due to the agitation. “There is no comparison between the sit-ins the PTI had and the one currently continuing in Islamabad. The PTI first knocked on the doors of courts and commissions and then was forced to opt for a sit-in, which obviously is not the case [with] JUI-F,” he said. To another question, he claimed that the problem of drinking water in Karachi would be solved in the next 16 months. Highlighting government efforts, Prof Dr Atta-ur-Rahman, the chairman of Prime Minister’s Task Force on Science and Technology, said the science conference was not only about quality and excellence in research but also about friendship and cooperation between nations. Talking about the government’s current initiatives in science and technology, he said that Rs200 billion had been approved for the ministries of science and technology and education. “As many as 27 mega projects have been initiated to foster science, research, and education in the country. These government projects will help the nation in harnessing the benefits of modern science,” he said. KU Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Khalid Mehmood Iraqi said that there was a pressing need to prioritise training programmes for our young scientists. “We are confident that this international event will not only help in generating scientific interest of young scholars in extremely important fields [such as] healthcare research, but also foster productive linkages between the scientists beyond national boundaries,” he noted. Prof Dr Muhammad Iqbal Choudhary, the director of KU’s International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences, spoke about the role the centre was playing in scientific research and training. Nadira Panjwani of the Dr Panjwani Memorial Trust said the Panjwani centre at KU had initiated a number of scientific programmes with the objective to find possible treatments of diseases often neglected in the country because they largely affected the poor. “The main objective of the centre is to produce highly qualified manpower in the emerging new fields of molecular medicine and drug development,” she said, adding that 150 young research scholars were registered in the MPhil and PhD programmes of the centre. Aziz Latif Jamal, the chairman of the Husein Ebrahim Jamal Foundation, said that organising such a prestigious science event was extremely important as it would help connect Pakistan’s scientific community to the rest of the world and showcase the scientific research conducted in Pakistan. French scholar Prof Georges Massiot, Greek scientist Prof Ioannis P. Gerothanassis and Prof Bertram Flehmig from Germany also spoke.