Chosen from 41 international participants
Twenty-five-year-old Komal Ali Shah has just become the first Pakistani to be selected for the Hiroshima-ICAN Academy on Nuclear Weapons and Global Security 2021, which received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017.
The program was started in 2019 and takes place every year. This year Komal was among 41 participants to be selected. She is not only the first Pakistani but the first Pakistani woman to be selected for this course.
ICAN is a broad, inclusive campaign that is focused on mobilizing civil society around the world to support the objective of prohibiting and eliminating nuclear weapons.
ICAN through Nuclear Weapons and Global Security program nurtures global leaders who work towards nuclear disarmament and can make concrete contributions towards a more peaceful and secure world.
“I would enhance the discussion by encouraging campaigns about nuclear disarmament from an educational perspective,” Komal says. She would also be researching environmental hazards around the testing sites of nuclear weapons.
Komal says whenever nuclear policies are formulated, the humanitarian perspective is usually left out.
The criteria of the program are to choose half of the participants from nuclear-weapon states like the UK, USA, Germany, Russia and China and the rest of the participants are from non-recognized nuclear-weapon states such as Pakistan, India and Israel.
Nuclear weapons are a flashpoint in South Asia because Pakistan and India are rivals. Pakistan first began testing nuclear weapons in 1998, becoming the world’s seventh state to officially test a nuclear weapon. The founder of its program, Dr AQ Khan, passed away just this October.
This year this program has two themes, the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and the political, legal, and technical aspects of nuclear weapons and global security.
The program is divided into two parts. Part one is about the online sessions and includes essays and webinars and part two will be in Hiroshima.
The first one has just finished and all students have submitted their final essays while part two dates are tentative. It will either begin in February or March.
Komal Ali Shah was born in Karachi. She has one younger brother. Her mother is a housewife and her father is a businessman. After she completed her schooling, her family moved to Islamabad in 2012 and it was there that she completed a Master’s in Strategic and Nuclear Studies. She is currently doing her MPhil at the National Defence University.
“I am the first one in my family to enter this field,” says Komal. She chooses the subject on her own, knowing how difficult it is as there are hardly any women in this field. The policy-making is dominated by men so we don’t see any women, she says. “In my Masters, I learned about strategic culture and nuclear weapons policies so this course relates to my academic background as well”
Only one person from India has been selected from South Asia before.