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[ISLAMABAD] Pakistan has appointed a new science minister, Aftab Hussain Shah, to replace Azam Swati.

Shah, who holds a degree in agriculture, was appointed this month (21 December), a week after the 14 December sacking of Swati, who was embroiled in a war of words with former minister of religious affairs, Hamid Kazmi, over charges of corruption in the latter's ministry.

Swati’s sacking is the latest twist in Pakistan's woes over the state of its science. He was appointed in January 2009 after the post lay vacant for a year.

In August, Swati had publicly criticised a slash in funds for science, accusing the government of short-term vision towards higher education.

A month later, a row erupted between the government and the country’s higher education ministry over cuts in funds for universities that threatened several research programmes. Ultimately, the government relented and agreed to restore funds promised in the 2010 budget.

And in December there was another crisis when differences between senior scientists and officials of two ministries halted the launch of the first indigenously produced hepatitis B drug.

After his removal, Swati accused the government of withholding research funds for political reasons.

"Although Swati did not make any breakthrough in the development of science in Pakistan, he was a voice of advocacy against science funding cuts in the country," Anwar Nasim, patron of the Pakistan Biotechnology Information Centre, told SciDev.Net.


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