Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday launched the first phase of the "Kamyab Jawan Programme" for youth across the country to support them through technical and financial assistance.
The prime minister while addressing the inauguration ceremony in Islamabad announced that Rs100 billion have been allocated for youth loans under the programme. He said that out of the total amount, Rs25bn have been earmarked for women.
Prime Minister Imran announced that loans worth up to Rs100,000 will be interest-free, while the loans in two other categories will be concessionary loans.
The premier added that one million young people will be facilitated under the programme.
"We have youth, they are our power but unfortunately [we are lacking in] skills," he said, adding that Rs10bn will be used for teaching skills to 100,000 young people. Under the programme, the prime minister announced, 100 labs will be established for distance learning.
The programme will also arrange internships through which 25,000 young people will be connected with industries, he said.
Talking about religious seminaries, Prime Minister Imran said that 500 labs will also be established in seminaries. "This is the first government which has taken [such] initiatives. We will consider seminary students as our own children and we will impart science education to them," he said, adding that the government has interacted with religious scholars for educational reforms.
"We will try to make our education systems uniform," he said after pointing out that three educational systems — English medium, Urdu medium and seminaries — are presently functioning in the country. He further said that 2,000 teachers will be sent abroad for international-level training.
The prime minister also announced that a national youth development foundation is being established for youngsters across the country to interact and exchange knowledge and views. "The programme will be followed up by the Prime Minister's Office," he said.
"I assure you that merit will be ensured in this programme. We will provide loans to even the people of Fazlur Rehman, if they fulfil the merit," Prime Minister Imran said, referring to the JUI-F chief who has vowed to carry out an anti-government protest march later this month.
"I know this is the first assembly which is being run without diesel. I won't talk much about it," he quipped, in a reference to Rehman.
Addressing the participants of the ceremony, he reminded them that merit is the most important issue for Pakistan's future.
"The nations having merit-based systems make progress in this world," he said, adding that the West progressed in the world due to their merit-based democracy. He said he had learnt from Islamic history that the Muslim World went on a downward spiral because Muslim empires were following bloodlines, instead of democracy.
"When Mughal emperor Aurangzeb passed away, one-quarter of the total wealth of the world was in India. The Mughal empire, the then world power, fell because after Aurangzeb, there was no capable king in the bloodline," the premier said, adding that in a democracy, leadership comes forward on merit and not on the basis of bloodline.
Prime Minister Imran recalled that Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had advised the nation to adhere to merit and refrain from corruption.
He promised that the government will bring meritocracy and overcome corruption as it goes ahead. He advised the participants of the ceremony to "dream big and think big".
"Always remember that great humans are those who dream big and think big. The great humans don't only think about themselves but others as well."
Citing inspiration from the example of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), the premier said that there will be no discrimination against minorities in naya Pakistan.
"I have learnt the history of Madina. Change doesn't occur all at once; it takes time. There is not a button to press for change," he said.
"Don't underestimate the power of truth, it will give you strength," he advised the young generation of the country.
Prime Minister Imran noted that "some people are trying to defy taxes; they want facilities but don't want to pay taxes, we have to avoid that mentality."
"If we want to become a nation with high self-esteem, we will have to pay taxes," he said.
He said that the last 12 months were "the worst time" he ever faced in his political career but assured the nation that good times are ahead of them.
Earlier, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Youth Affairs Usman Dar said that the Kamyab Jawan Programme has been developed to enable the country's youth to prosper.
"I am happy because the programme is the first step towards fulfilling the PTI's promise for youth's prosperity," he said.
He said that as per the instructions of the prime minister, the programme is completely transparent and merit-based. "To ensure transparency, the entire programme is made available on a digital platform," he said, adding that a scorecard has been developed on the basis of artificial intelligence to run the programme.
According to Dar, the programme is focused on ensuring employment opportunities to the youth and providing them proper platforms to excel.
The programme is supported by the United Nations Development Programme and no amount of people's tax is incurred on it, Dar had earlier said in a press briefing.
Under the programme, the government will also devise a state-of-the-art digital platform to support the youth.