ISLAMABAD  - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday said education in the fields of science and technology can play an important role in eradicating the economic ills while ensuring socio-economic development of a nation.

He was addressing a ceremony to mark the launch of new initiative of the Centre for Education Research and Social Development by Sultana Foundation. The Foundation, which is a trust financed by voluntary donations from within and outside Pakistan, is providing education to around 8000 students, besides undertaking welfare projects. The new Centre will focus on teachers' development, early pre-school age development and primary education development in Pakistan.

Prince Sultan Bin Salman, Captain Shujaat Azim, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Aviation, Dr Naeem Ghani, Chairman Sultana Foundation, trust members of Sultana Foundation, teachers and students, attended the event.

The Prime Minister also expressed his gratitude to Prince Sultan Bin Salman for taking out time to visit Pakistan and pay reverence to his mother Late Sultana Turki-Al-Suderi, who played a key role in the expansion and building of the Sultana Foundation.

"Your presence here today is a symbol of the longstanding and everlasting friendly relations between the people of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan," he said.

The Prime Minister said both the countries share a vast heritage of cultural, religious and social values that bind them in the common bond of eternal brotherhood.

"Pakistan is just like your second home. The people of Pakistan hold Saudi Arabia in great reverence as a model Islamic country, having the privilege of being the caretaker of the 'Harmain Sharifain', and as a reliable and trustworthy friend."

He said people of both the countries were peace loving, faithful and hardworking and can make great contributions to the overall peace and prosperity of not only the region but that of the whole world. The Prime Minister said the primary mission of social work was to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty.

He said a defining feature of social work was its focus on individual well-being in a social context and the well-being of society in terms of education, health and social uplift. Thus it is fundamental to social work to promote social justice and social change.

"We need a social change to create a healthy society in which our people are safe, educated and are able to participate in the development and prosperity of the country," Sharif said.

He said Sultana Foundation was one such example of social work, conceived by a few retired people and transformed into reality by the generous financial support of Late Princess Sultana whose love and devotion to human service was reflected in the shape of this Knowledge city, serving thousands of students on humanitarian basis.

"The name of that great philanthropist lady will forever remain a great source of inspiration for generations to come," the Prime Minister said.

He said the vast range of formal and informal education modalities applied to education development, by Sultana Foundation, was highly helpful in promoting the cause of education in Pakistan.

He said its initiatives for emphasis on out-of-school children, which Dr.  Naeem Ghani has named a "Quantitative Deficit of Education" as a vital area needing attention of the civil society as well as the government.

"I pay my humble tribute to the Great Lady and the men behind this Mission," the Prime Minister said.

He acknowledged that the Foundation which started with a two room primary school for boys in 1994 was today running a number of prestigious educational institutions where thousands of students were getting quality education.

"The Foundation's emphasis on skills training and character building is also commendable," Prime Minister Sharif said and prayed "may Allah keep us in peace and give us the strength to serve humanity to the best of our abilities."

The Prime Minister concluded his address by raising the slogan of 'long live Pakistan-Saudi Arabia friendship, amidst a loud applause.

Prince Sultan bin Salman Abdul Aziz said he saw a bright future for Pakistan as its people were hard working and committed.

The Prince posed great trust in the leadership qualities of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and said that Pakistan is a great country and has bright future under Nawaz Sharif's leadership. He said the foundation has played a key role in improving and spreading education across the nook and corner of the country.

He recalled the vital role of his mother in this regard and said his family was proud to have been of assistance to the fellow Pakistanis in a noble task.  He said that foundation was an idea of his mother and she also supported several other charitable institutions.

Outlining future plans of the Foundation the Prince said that we want to further expand the programme from schools to colleges and medical colleges and scholarships for the needy students. He pledged to continue support to the Sultana Foundation particularly in the areas of education, research and health.

Online adds: Speaking on the occasion‚ Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz said his country always stood by Pakistan in hard times and will continue extending all type of support to it for its rapid progress. Separately, General Secretary of Pakistan Muslim League (N) Zafar Iqbal Jhagra called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad Friday morning.

They discussed party matters.