Youth are an asset and their empowerment can play a significant role in development of Pakistan as well as making it a peaceful and safer place to live in, said speakers at a summit on Wednesday. The 5th National Youth Summit organised by the Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering & Management Sciences (BUITEMS) Quetta was attended by a large number of intellectuals, scholars, faculty members, students and the civil society activists. Provincial Ministers Zahoor Buledai and Salim Khosa were guests of honour on the occasion. Hiba Zaki from Lahore University of Management Sciences and Professor Mahwish Jan from Sardar Bahadur Khan Women’s University participated in a panel discussion titled Strong Families Make Strong Societies. Family Planning Association of Pakistan National Council Member Dr Taj and United Nations former head Rehana Khilji held a panel discussion on Psychological & Socio-Political Drivers of Extremism. Professor Zahoor Bazai from the University of Balochistan and BUITEMS Environmental Sciences Department Chairperson Dr Malik participated in a panel discussion on Clean & Green Pakistan – Environmental Challenges of Water & Land Pollution. Balochistan Rural Support Programme Chief Executive Officer Nadir Gul Barech presented his views on Role of Youth as Ambassadors of Peace. Addressing the participants, speakers said the participation of youth in decision making on social, cultural and economic affairs was very important for the bright future of the country. They said youth of the country had the ability to compete at all levels in the world, adding that if provided an opportunity they can play an important role in bringing about a real change in the country. The speakers also urged the students to work for humanity and establishment of peace which will not only bring in stability, prosperity and growth but also end misconceptions and negativity and portray a positive picture of Pakistan before the world. With specific reference to Balochistan, the speakers said the youth of the province faces lack of education, unemployment and poverty, rendering them vulnerable to social risks such as crime, insurgency and unrest. Urging the government to provide adequate opportunities to the youth to become a productive citizen of the state, they maintained that the solution to violent extremism and other threats to safety and stability of the country can be found in working with the young people and tapping into their talents and potentials to reform and rebuild the society. Meanwhile at a parallel event at BUITEMS, the participants discussed the role women can play and the responsibilities they need to fulfill to counter extremism and terrorism, disseminate the message of peace and contribute to the growth and development of the country. The event organised by the university as part of Dukhtaran-e-Pakistan initiative of the government was attended by a large number of social workers, women rights activists, political leaders, businesswomen, faculty members and students. On the occasion, DOCH Founder Deedar Mengal and social activist Fatima Khan conducted a discussion on Women & Youth Empowerment through Entrepreneur Skills, while Qari Abdul Rasheed and Advocate Ameer Tareen held discussion on Rights of Women in the Light of Law & Islam. Addressing the participants, speakers said that women had extraordinary characteristics to prove themselves by not only promoting peace and stability but also contributing to the progress and development of the country which was direly needed at this time. “Being the first educator, the women should teach their children to work together, live peacefully and deny all kinds of extremism,” they said and warned that marginalisation of women from social and political life will allow the extremism ideologies to spread more readily. It was unanimously agreed that any national effort to promote peace and tolerance could not be complete without the representation of women who play a fundamental role in the reformation of society in both private and public spheres. Published in Daily Times, December 6th 2018.