Our Glorious History

A nucleus of the Postgraduate Institute of Chemistry was established in the Department of Chemistry, University of Karachi in 1967 and Prof. Salimuzzaman Siddiqui appointed as Director. Prof. Viqaruddin Ahmed. Prof. Zafar H. Zaidi and other staff was also assigned by PCSIR to Karachi University to work at the Postgraduate Institute of Chemistry. Prior to that in 1964, Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman had already joined the department of Chemistry as Lecturer after obtaining first class first in M.Sc. exams and left for Cambridge University in 1965 for PhD in Organic Chemistry on a Commonwealth Scholarship.

Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman returned from Cambridge University in 1968 and joined the Postgraduate Institute of Chemistry. He was then offered Fellowship by Kings College University of Cambridge and worked in Cambridge University during 1969-1973. During this period he disproved the earlier work of the Nobel Laureate Sir Robert Robinson (Atta-ur-Rahman, J.Chem.Soc.Perkin 1, 736 (1972), thereby gaining international fame early in his life. During 1970/71 he was sent by University of Cambridge to Karachi University to help set up the Chemistry Institute and he brought with him C, H, N and O analysers, Mettler microanalytical balances, gas chromatographs and other related equipment that helped to set up the institute.  Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman permanently returned to Pakistan in September 1973 and joined the institute as its Co Director. He then succeeded in winning grants for the purchase of Pakistan’s first NMR and mass spectrometers which were installed in the Postgraduate Institute of Chemistry in 1974. This attracted Prof. Wolfgang Voelter to select the Postgraduate Institute of Chemistry as a collaborating institution in Pakistan, resulting two German grants from GTZ totalling an amount of 4.8 million DM were received. The Latif Ebrahim Jamal Foundation then provided a grant of Rs.50 million, of which Rs.25 million was used to construct its new buildings and the remaining Rs. 25 million were provided in the form of shares of Husein Industries for a regular source of income. Subsequently Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman succeeded in winning grants of 2.3 billion Japanese yen (about $23 million) from Japan, about $ 8 million from Office of Naval Research in a joint project with the Institute of Marine Biology, and a sum of 1 million pounds from ODA (UK) for a joint programme with the School of Molecular Sciences University of Sussex. These and other grants helped to transform the institution to a world class Center of Excellence. Prof. Salimuzzaman Siddiqui served as Director from 1967 to 1990, Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman served as Co-Director from 1977 to 1990, and later as Director from 1990 to 2000 and Prof. Iqbal Choudhary served as Director from 2008-2023.

In 2005 Ms. Nadira Panjwani came forward with a magnificent grant of Rs. 222.8 million with which the Dr. Panjwani Center for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research was constructed. The H.E.J. Research Institute of Chemistry then became an integral part of a larger International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences with its two main wings, the H.E.J. Research Institute of Chemistry and the Dr. Panjwani Center for Molecular Medicine and Drug research. During 2000–2002 Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman was appointed Federal Minister of Science and Technology and then during 2002-2008 he became the Founding Chairman (status Federal Minister) of the Higher Education Commission. During this period the development grant of the Ministry of Science and Technology was increased by 6000% and that of higher education by 3500%. This provided liberal funding to the science, technology and higher education sectors changing the entire landscape of higher education in Pakistan. The world’s leading science journal Nature in its article published on 22nd September 2010 called Atta-ur-Rahman “a force of nature”. (https://www.nature.com/articles/467378a) . As a result of these investments many Centers of Excellence emerged in Pakistan including in National University of Science & Technology (NUST), COMSATS, UET (Lahore), BUITMS (Quetta) and the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS). Within ICCBS, the L.E.J. National Science Information Center, and the L.E.J. Nanotechnology Research Center were established with additional generous donations from Mr. Aziz Jamal through the Latif Ebrahim Jamal Foundation while the Jamil-ur-Rahman Center for Genomics Research was set up be a donation from Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman in his father’s name. Subsequently a number of other institutions have also been established from grants of the Federal and Sindh governments that include the Forensic Science Laboratories, the National Center for Virology, etc.

Prof. Iqbal Choudhary was the Acting Director of ICCBS during 2001-2008, and the Director from 2008-2023, and he played a valuable role in the development of ICCBS, Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman served as Patron-in-Chief of ICCBS. As a result of the eminent and dedicated leadership, an excellent faculty and technical staff, the institute evolved to great heights, being recognised as the WHO Center of Excellence for Pesticide Analysis, The World Academy of Science (TWAS) Center of Excellence, the OIC Center of Excellence, the UNESCO (Category 2) Center of Excellence and the COMSATS Center of Excellence.

The faculty of the institute has won 32 Civil awards including one Nishan-i-Imtiaz, four Hilal-i-Imtiaz, 13 Sitara-i-Imtiaz and 13 Tamgha-i-Imtiaz / Pride of Performance. It also has the distinction of having two Fellows of Royal Society (London) heading it (Salimuzzaman Siddiqui and Atta-ur-Rahman). The Austrian Government honoured Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman its high Civil Award (“Grosse Goldene Ehrenzeischen am Bande") (2007). Prof. Rahman won the prestigious UNESCO Science Prize (1999). The Chinese government conferred its highest national award on Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman (International Science & Technology Collaboration Award) (2019). Prof. Rahman had the distinction of being appointed Honorary Life Fellow of Kings College, University of Cambridge in 2007. Prof. Rahman also received a number of honorary doctorate degrees including those from Cambridge University (UK), Coventry University (UK), Bradford University (UK), and Asian Institute of Technology (Thailand). The Mustufa (PBUH) Prize was won by Prof. Iqbal Choudhary while the L’Oréal-UNESCO Award was won by Prof. Farzana Shaheen.