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Youth should fight terror: Musharraf

ISLAMABAD, Sep 13: President General Pervez Musharraf has said unemployment, inflation and poverty are the major problems facing the country, and the government is working to redress these problems on a priority basis.

The youth particularly need to understand that terrorism and extremism are the main hurdles to development, and take a stand for their elimination, said the president while addressing a National Training and Education Commission prize distribution ceremony here at the Convention Centre on Wednesday.

President Musharraf said the country faces a severe skilled workforce shortage, and the National Training and Education Commission has been established to generate a trained and skilled workforce in the country. The commission is running numerous vocational centres, he said.

People gaining skills and certification from these centres will not only play their due role for the country's development, but will also increase their own incomes and contribute to ending unemployment. "We are increasing the number of such centres to produce a skilled workforce so they can not only get jobs in the country but also in foreign countries. This will improve our national exchequer and remittance," he added.

Although Pakistan is still facing the problems of unemployment, poverty and inflation, they have decreased in severity during the tenure of the incumbent government, the president maintained. He said people living below the poverty line had decreased from 34 to 23 percent during his term.

The government is determined to raise citizens' incomes and standard of living, and curb inflation, said the president.

Gen Musharraf said 55 to 60 percent of Pakistan's population consists of youngsters under 19. "We can use this gigantic force for the development of the country by enhancing their ability," he said, adding that force alone cannot eliminate extremism and terrorism, and that the country's youth would have to stand against these forces and elements.

He said a comprehensive strategy was being pursued to empower youths and develop a strong industrial base for a prosperous Pakistan by imparting technical skills. The commission aims to train over 500,000 youths in various fields to serve the needs of the country's growing industrial base, he said.

He said the focus in the past had been on imparting quality primary, secondary and higher education, but little attention was paid to training the middle tier, which is critical for a growing economy.

However, he emphasised that plans to impart quality secondary and higher education would continue simultaneously. "It is shameful that a country with nuclear and missile power has a literacy rate of around 55 percent."

President Musharraf referred to nine new universities focussed on science and technology, and said these world class institutions would inject fresh impetus in higher education and take the country towards inclusion in the ranks of industrialised states.

National Training and Education Commission Chairman Altaf Saleem said the commission was pursuing a short- and medium-term plan through increased capacity utilisation of existing government institutions. He said the number of students has risen from 330,000 to 430,000, while 64,000 had either obtained certification or were in the final stages. Punjab Governor Khalid Maqbool, speaking at the ceremony earlier, thanked the president for his support in making the vocational training programme a success. He said 400 students had completed vocational training in the universities of Punjab and many more were undergoing such training. Daily times
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