OUR STAFF REPORTER LAHORE Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif has said youth are the hope of the nation who after acquiring modern education will remove the stigma of extremism, poverty and ignorance from the face of the country. Recent events have stunned the whole nation, and it is in a state of despondency. Young generation will face not only the challenges, but also bring the country out of the quagmire of the problems and put it on the road to progress and development, he said, while addressing 46 talented students of the flood affected districts of DG Khan, Muzaffargarh and Rajanpur at CMs Secretariat here on Monday, who have been given scholarships by Khawaja Rafique Shaheed Foundation for continuing their academic activities. Chairman Khawaja Rafique Shaheed Foundation MNA Khawaja Saad Rafique, MPAs Khawaja Salman Rafique and Ghazala Saad Rafique, Vice Chairman Punjab Educational Endowment Fund, Dr Amjad Saqib and other trustees of the Foundation were present on the occasion. The CM said provision of scholarships by the Foundation was a noble gesture and the role of the foundation would be written in golden letters. Addressing the students, the CM said that progress and prosperity could not be realised without education as only those nations had progressed which had paid due attention to the uplift of education sector. He said in view of the importance of education, the Punjab government was attaching top priority to the improvement of education sector and revolutionary measures had been taken for that purpose. He mentioned that the focus of educational activities of the government was South Punjab and backward areas where educational facilities were less than the developed areas. Daanish schools project has also been started in South Punjab where six schools have started functioning while the project has also been started in Mianwali, Attock, DG Khan and Rajanpur, he said, adding that the schools would remove disparity from the society. He also talked about the Punjab Educational Endowment Fund established with a sum of Rs six billion for education of talented boy and girl students, and the amount of the fund would be increased to Rs eight bn next year. Scholarships are being given to talented students, not only of Punjab but of the whole country from the fund. The recipients of the scholarships from the endowment fund are studying at LUMS, FAST, NUST and other prestigious educational institutions of the country, he added. In response to a question about economic condition of the province, the CM said national resources were looted mercilessly in the past while Punjab Bank was robbed of seventy six billion rupees. He said in order to save Punjab Bank from bankruptcy, he gave a loan of Rs 10bn. Similarly, he said, a number of development projects which are pending due to loot and plunder of development funds are completed and made a symbol of development. Recruitments in the name of teachers were made on political basis due to which education system is almost ruined, but the present government recruited as many as 40,000 teachers purely on merit. He advised the students to utilise all their energies for acquiring knowledge so that they could play their due role in national development. Earlier, Khawaja Saad Rafique informed that the students had been selected from flood affected areas and were being provided scholarships by the Foundation to help them pursue their academic activities for contributing to national progress and prosperity.