ISLAMABAD - Terming education as pre-requisite for democracy Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said that government was striving to develop an educational system compatible with the requirements of a knowledge-based economy.

Addressing at the Air University Convocation in Islamabad on Thursday, Premier Sharif said, "Everyone in the country is allowed to exercise the fundamental right to freedom of speech in Pakistan, but it's only possible through equipping the nation with quality education."

"Education is key to social development and vital for democracy... We want to strengthen the democratic norms in the country," he said, urging the students to sincerely play their role for Pakistan's development.

The PM termed education as the best investment into future, saying that the government aims at developing an educational system that is compatible with the requirements of a knowledge-based economy. "Knowledge is the basic currency of the economy we are living in today and has supplanted land, labour and capital as the wealth of a nation."

The Prime Minister said he was a firm believer in strengthening of the country's educational institutions to facilitate their role and more importantly as gateways of knowledge for the benefit of society at large.

"We want to strengthen democratic norms, to be able to tolerate different opinions and to understand that everyone has the right to express. And it would only be possible through education," he said.

Nawaz Sharif said he had the dream of a Pakistan where every citizen gets educated in the real sense and thereby contributes to the development of the country.

He said as Pakistan's constitution is based on Islamic principles, acquiring education is a religious obligation as well.

He said as revolutions in technology and communication break down barriers between countries and connect people all over the world, new jobs and industries that require more skill and knowledge have come to dominate the economy.

He stressed that science and technology are engines of growths in modern economies and must be an integral part of the country's education system.

He also called for including vocational training and education in modern skills like Information Technology.

The Prime Minister said the educational system should foster creativity, sound judgment and analytical abilities. It should promote tolerance and openness towards other's point of views and cultures, he added.

He mentioned that in the developed economies every member of the society, be it man or woman, is part of the development process.

He regretted that in Pakistan, the capacity of the other half of the population was under-utilized.

Nawaz emphasized that education policy must prioritise female education in order to close the gender gap and stressed the need to ensure effective participation of women in the decision-making process and protect their respect and dignity.

He said the government provides equal rights to women and urged them to come forward and contribute to the development of the country in fields, which were previously considered for males only.

He gave the reference of the recent induction of female fighter pilots and officers in the armed forces, which he said was a testament to the fact that all citizens have equal opportunity to serve Pakistan. 

The Prime Minister termed the young graduates as future of Pakistan and urged them to work diligently in their chosen professions with full integrity, honesty and dedication.

He said it was a matter of pride for Air University to have achieved a repute of excellence in higher education in less than 12 years since its inception.

He said the contributions of Air University in development of both human resource and technological solutions for the Pakistan Air Force and other strategic organizations were also praiseworthy.  

Nawaz Sharif said on space constraints of this university, he had given directions for expeditious arrangements for giving possession of the allocated land to the Air University at the earliest.

The Prime Minister awarded medals to the students who got distinction in their respective disciplines.

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt, also the Chairman Board of Governors of the university, presented a memento to the Prime Minister.

Earlier, Vice Chancellor of Air University Dr. Ijaz Ahmad Malik said the university is ranked at number seven among the country's engineering and technical universities.