After a technical glitch in India’s ambitious Chandrayaan 2 mission, many people from Pakistan including its ministers started running down India’s space program. India’s world-famous space agency ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) came under fire from across the border. However, many social media users found it ironical for a country with no substantial scientific achievements to criticise and ridicule ISRO.
Let’s take a look at where does Pakistan’s own space agency SUPARCO (Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission) stand?
Scientific Capabilities of SUPARCO
Pakistan’s space program has relied on international space powers like the USA, UK, and China. It has not been able to develop its own capabilities indigenously. Pakistan launched its first satellite BADR 1 in 1990 with the help from China. It had launched another satellite BADR II in 2001 almost after a decade. Finally, Pakistan had launched its first communication satellite PakSAT-1R in 2011, however, again with the help from China.
Pakistan has not able to develop its own launch vehicle and generally takes the help of countries like China to send its satellite into space. It neither has a proper launching facility. Further, SUPARCO faces budget constraints and political interference.
Militarisation of SUPARCO
Most of the space agencies in the world are led by scientists. But Pakistan’s space wing is one where Military brass leads the scientific programs, probably because like any other activity in the country, SUPARCO is more concerned with the threat from India than the development of its own people.
SUPARCO was set up in 1961 due to the efforts of a famous scientist Abdus Salam, founder of Pakistan’s space program. After some progress in the initial years, SUPARCO lost its vision and funding and fell prey to Pakistan’s dictator commanders. In the 1980s, Pakistan’s President Zia-ul-Haq squeezed the funding out of SUPARCO and replaced scientists with military officers. The objective of SUPARCO was to develop programs that can help the country in taking on India than to develop satellite building and launching capabilities.
According to a report by The Eurasian Times, “Despite his enormous accomplishments and international adulation, Abdus Salam was never idolized in Pakistan as he belonged to highly persecuted Ahmadiyya sect. Many top politicians, religious leaders, and bureaucrats in Pakistan also opposed Abdus Salam leading a prestigious programme.”
The incumbent head of SUPARCO is Major General Amer Nadeem who took over from Major General Qaiser Anees Khurram in 2018.
A user, appearing to be Pakistani, on Twitter has tweeted the comparison between space agencies of India and Pakistan.
The Pakistan is far behind the Indian ISRO in space research program.
They are learning from their mistakes but we not even doing a mistake.
They are at Moon and Mars orbits but we are still struggling for a spot in geo stationary orbit.#SUPARCO #ISROMissions #ISROChief pic.twitter.com/Kgdvw7mm2z
— Malik Khurram Shahzad (@MalikKh56719703) September 9, 2019
In light of the above facts, it is not difficult to understand that Pakistan is far behind India in the space race. And interestingly, its space agency is led by major generals of Pakistan army and not scientists. Yet, Pakistani ministers have the audacity to mock India on its space program which is one of the world’s fastest-growing.