Chemistry remains the strongest subject in the country with the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences playing the lead role with the largest postgraduate research program in the country having about 600 students enrolled for PhD..Physics (theoretical, nuclear, particle, laser, and quantum physics), material science, metallurgy (engineering), biology, and mathematics, are some of the other fields in which Pakistani scientists have contributed. From the 1960s and onwards, the Pakistani government made the development and advancement of science a national priority and showered top scientists with honours. While the government has made efforts to make science a part of national development, there have been criticisms of federal policies, such as the government's dissolution of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC)— an administrative body that supervised research in science — in 2011. This attempted dissolution failed to materialise because of a Supreme Court of Pakistan decision on a petition filed by Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman, former Federal Minister of Science & technology and former founding Chairman of the Higher Education Commission. Pakistani scientists have also won acclaim in mathematics and in several branches of physical science, notably theoretical and nuclear physics, chemistry, and astronomy. Professor Abdus Salam, a theoretical physicist won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979, being the first and only Pakistani to date to have received the honor. Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman an organic chemist was elected as Fellow of Royal Society (London) in 2006 in recognition of his contributions in the field of natural products thereby becoming the first scientist from the Islamic world to receive this honour for work carried out within an Islamic country.. The contributions of Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman to uplift science and higher education in Pakistan were internationally acknowledged and a tribute paid to him in the world's leading science journal Nature that termed him as "a force of nature".
Technology is most highly developed in nuclear physics and explosives engineering, where the arms race with India convinced policy makers to set aside sufficient resources for research. Due to a programme directed by Munir Ahmad Khan and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), Pakistan is the seventh nation to have developed an atomic bomb, which the global intelligence community believes it had done by 1983 (see Kirana-I), nine years after India (see Pokhran-I). Pakistan first publicly tested its devices (see Chagai-I and Chagai-II) on 28 and 30 May 1998, two weeks after India carried out its own tests (See Pokhran-II).
Space exploration was hastily developed, in 1990 Pakistan launched Badr-1 followed by Badr-II in 2001. Since the 1980s, the space programme dedicated itself to military technologies (Space weapons programme and Integrated missile systems), and maintains a strong programme developed for military applications.
Pakistan is an associate member of CERN, one of the few countries to obtain that status.
The Scientific and Technological Research Division (S&TR) was established in 1964 for (i) coordination and implementation of national science and technology policy; (ii) promotion and coordination of research and utilization of the results of research; (iii) development, production and utilization of nuclear energy; and (iv) coordination of utilization of scientific and technological manpower. The Division was administratively responsible for National Science Council, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Atomic Energy Commission and the Space and Upper Atmospheric Research Committee. The Ministry of Science and Technology (MoS&T) has been functioning since 1972. It is the national focal point and enabling arm of Government of Pakistan for planning, coordinating and directing efforts; to initiate and launch scientific and technological programs and projects as per national agenda for sound and sustainable Science & Technology Research base for the socio-economic development. From the areas of industrial development to renewable energy and rural development, the Ministry suggests technological development for higher growth-rates and to improve standards of living. Its principal focus is on building Pakistan's technological competence and developing a larger pool of human resources to reverse brain drain, and for integrating the existing technological infrastructure for strengthening of technology institutions, effective governance of S&TR and enhancing the capacity of indigenous innovation systems.