ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Thursday said that he was “willing to talk to the leaders of the Opposition in the larger national interest”. However, he stressed that the Opposition had “double standards” as it was not willing to talk with the coalition parties for the last four years. Addressing a ceremony in the federal capital to announce scholarships and other opportunities for the youth of the country, the premier said that nation’s resources should be spent on equipping the youth with high-quality education instead of creating divisions and sowing seeds of hate among youth. On the occasion, the PM announced the initiative of providing 20,000 internships to young engineers and 75 scholarships to students for studies in the top universities of the world. He said that the Ministry of Planning and Development will carry out the youth initiatives, which also include spending Rs40 billion in 20 most underdeveloped districts and building 250 mini sports complexes. The programme would be expanded further and more initiatives would be launched for the youth, PM Shehbaz said. Referring to his past initiatives as the Punjab chief minister, he said the former PML-N-led government, under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif, had undertaken different programmes for providing high-quality education, scholarships, and laptops to millions of students. The prime minister said his provincial government set up the Punjab endowment fund, and in eight years, Rs 20 billion were given as scholarships to high achievers in studies. Millions of students were equipped with technical education under the Punjab Skills Development Programme, he recalled. Hundreds of students were sent to Turkiye and China so that they could learn Turkish and Chinese. Now many of these Chinese-speaking Pakistanis were working on projects of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as interpreters and translators, Shehbaz added. About 75,000 vehicles were distributed among people so that they could earn their living, he said, adding that during his tenure in Punjab, Danish schools were established so that orphans and children from less privileged backgrounds could receive an education. He said the federal allied government saved Pakistan from economic default and distributed Rs66 billion among families affected by the floods, through the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP). Billions of rupees were also spent on the provision of food, drinking water, medicines, blankets, tents and mosquito nets to the flood-hit people, he said, adding Pakistan’s friends including China, Turkiye, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, the United States, United Kingdom and European Union provided assistance to Pakistan for citizens devastated by floods. The prime minister said it was unfortunate that billions of dollars of the nation were wasted by delaying the construction of projects such as the Neelum Jhelum hydro project and the Reko Diq mining project.He assured that more funds would be allocated for the education sector and for equipping the students with the latest skills.