LAHORE - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday said the government was meeting its responsibilities towards forming a knowledge-based society through educational revolution, adding it was for the universities and colleges to play their due role in this regard.

Addressing the Government College University convocation, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said before the last elections he did not see any party getting a clear majority, but the youth’s support enabled PML-N to win majority seats and make him the third-time premier. In the past, he said, flow of loans was to the elite who got them written off, but his government had changed this culture. He said the use of the national resources must be spent on the common man if the challenge of creating a new Pakistan had to be met. He said his government would not disappoint the nation.

The prime minister said the government was going to provide loans to 100,000 skilled youth to enable them to contribute to the national economy. He said the government had provided equal opportunities to the youth through the loan scheme to let them start their own businesses instead of seeking jobs. “I want to extend the programme to one million people per annum,” he added. Citing examples of Germany, the US, the UK and South Korea, he questioned if 80 percent youth of those countries were contributing to their economies why Pakistan could not give a chance to its youth. He said the government would overcome all crises with the people’s help and would not disappoint the nation.

Reminiscing his old days at Government College Lahore, Nawaz Sharif said, “Today, when I was coming to attend the convocation at GCU, a caravan of memories accompanied me throughout the way.”

The prime minister said he used to sit in the Oval Ground of Government College Lahore and also played a lot of cricket there. “I was a prominent member of the GC cricket team,” he said.

He also recalled a visit of former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Lahore when film star Dev Anand, also a Ravian, expressed his desire to see Government College Lahore again.

Nawaz Sharif said he could not forget the college canteen, friends and honourable teachers. He asked the VC that he might remain vice chancellor but should not change the nameplate of ‘principal’ from his office. He said he would prefer refreshment at the college canteen.

On this occasion, the Government College University awarded an honorary doctorate degree to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his invaluable services for Pakistan, democracy and his alma mater.

Punjab Governor Ch Muhammad Sarwar, Education Minister Rana Mashhood Ahmad Khan and Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Muhammad Khaleeq-ur-Rahman presented the honorary PhD degree to the prime minister at the university’s 12th convocation. As many as 1,215 students also received degrees, medals, rolls of honour and other distinctions.

About 19 scholars, Sana Zahoor, Muhammad Ajaib, Shahzad Sharif, Tauheeda Riaz, Haniya Azam, Samia Ashraf, Zaheer Ahmed, Sadia Arshad, Zia Bashir, Aftab Khan, Ammara Nosheen, Gul Rahmat, Awais Younus, Farah Deeba, Zeba Israr, Muhammad Hamid Ali, Sarah Khalid Butt, Hina Kanwal and Mian Humayun, also received doctorate of philosophy (PhD) degrees at the convocation.

Girls again outshined boys in academics this year as they clinched top positions and medals in 15 of 26 disciplines at BA/BSc (Hons) level while boys as usual shined in co-curricular activities and sports.

In his convocation address, Governor Sarwar congratulated the new graduates and asked them to serve the nation and pay back what they have earned from their alma mater. He said the country would progress under the leadership of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He said getting GSP Plus status was just because of the PM’s efforts.

The governor lauded Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Khaleeq-ur-Rahman’s performance and said the university was growing rapidly under his supervision.

He said there were 7 million children in Pakistan, who cannot get admission to school due to poverty. He urged the newly graduates to utilise their degrees for underprivileged children and women.

Speaking on the occasion, the vice chancellor said that Pakistan was facing many challenges like terrorism, intolerance, poverty, debt, unemployment, poor infrastructure, lawlessness, diseases and other maladies just for lack of quality education.

He said, “Unfortunately, Muslim countries are categorised as low-income developing countries. This is because the Muslim countries spend only 0.46% of their GDP on education.” He congratulated the prime minister for increasing the budgetary allocation for education up to 4% of the GDP.

Prof Dr Muhammad Khaleeq-ur-Rahman said that despite financial constraints, GCU had reduced the fees of students by 35%, adding there had been no raise in their fees for the last three years. Besides fee reduction, a substantial amount of Rs 22 million had been disbursed by way of scholarships out of the university budget as well as GCU Endowment Fund. He asserted hostel fees and charges had also been reduced by 50% through a rigorous control.

Concluding his speech, the vice chancellor congratulated the new graduates and urged them to make the best use of their immense energy and talent while serving the nation.

Later, the governor and the vice chancellor presented a shield to the prime minister.