ISLAMABAD: In a major blow to Pakistan’s standing in the world of standardization and quality control, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has suspended the country’s membership due to non-payment of the annual subscription fee. Despite repeated reminders and emails, the Pakistan Standard and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA), a part of the Ministry of Science and Technology, failed to settle the outstanding dues.
The ISO, a globally recognized independent and non-governmental organization, has a membership of 169 national standards bodies across the world. This suspension comes as a result of the PSQCA’s negligence and lack of responsiveness to the ISO’s communication. This incident has the potential to harm Pakistan’s reputation in terms of adhering to international standards and producing quality goods.
In the latest communication sent on August 17, 2023, the ISO informed the Director General of PSQCA that the subscription fee for the year 2022 remains unpaid, leading to the suspension of the authority’s membership. As per ISO’s statutes, a suspended member body loses its voting rights, its seat in the General Assembly, and access to free publications and documents from the organization.
This development followed a series of reminders and warnings sent by the ISO, the latest of which was on July 25, 2023, stressing the unpaid subscription fee and the subsequent suspension of membership. The ISO outlined the process for membership restoration upon clearing the outstanding fee.
The impact of this suspension is significant. Pakistan’s organization status within the Global Directory will be adjusted, its involvement in ISO Technical Committees (TCs) and Subcommittee (SCs) activities will cease, and access to ISO Content Exchange (ICE) will be revoked. Furthermore, ISO officials in Geneva communicated this development to Pakistani authorities and urged ISO subcommittees to suspend interactions with PSQCA until membership is reinstated.
Intriguingly, despite attending various ISO meetings and training programs, PSQCA officials have failed to pay the ISO and other standard body fees. This suspension arrives at a time when PSQCA operates under temporary leadership, a situation highlighted by the Islamabad High Court in a case related to the appointment of a regular Director General for PSQCA. The organization is being managed by interim officials due to the absence of a permanent DG, Secretary, Director Admin, and Director Finance.
Known for its alleged corruption, even the current interim officials overseeing PSQCA are reportedly facing multiple inquiries and cases at the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
Despite attempts, Minister of Science and Technology, Umar Saif, and Secretary of the Ministry, Ali Raza Bhutta, did not respond to inquiries or meeting requests regarding this matter.
Experts are concerned about the repercussions of this suspension. Without ISO membership, Pakistan might encounter challenges and skepticism regarding the quality and standards of its goods, both domestically and in the international market. The ISO, founded in 1947, has published thousands of international standards covering various technological and manufacturing domains. With its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the ISO’s influence extends to 167 countries as of 2023.