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PM Shehbaz proposes debt swap for climate action

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday said that the international community’s sustained support in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of flood-ravaged Pakistan is a matter of justice, not just solidarity.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency, he proposed “debt swaps for climate action,” saying death, devastation, and destruction are “driven by global climate change causes,” despite the fact that Pakistan contributes less than 1% of the global carbon footprint.

Pakistan is facing a “brunt of natural calamities in the form of heat waves, glacial outbursts, droughts, torrential rains, and unprecedented monsoons,” he said, adding that one-third of the country is underwater.

“Therefore, the response calls for international solidarity and collective action,” Shehbaz said during the interview on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

Pakistan is witnessing what he called “super floods” caused by “monsoon on steroids,” a calamity that has affected more than 33 million people, resulted in the death of over 1,500 people, and caused damages to private and public infrastructure worth $30 billion, according to official estimates.

Read more: PM draws SCO’s attention to making Pakistan-specific climate action plans

Recalling a statement made by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during a solidarity visit to Pakistan, PM Shehbaz said that countries like Pakistan, which “have done almost nothing to contribute to global warming, do not deserve to be amongst the frontline countries impacted the most by climate change.”

“It is not just a matter of solidarity, but a matter of justice,” he emphasised, calling on the industrialised nations to “meet their climate finance commitments, with a balanced focus on adaptation and mitigation.”

The prime minister also proposed establishing a “loss and damage financing facility” to compensate developing countries most severely impacted by climate change.

Besides the national effort to mitigate flood-related damages, the premier said that Pakistan is “regularly receiving humanitarian relief items through air, sea and land routes.”

“To date, we have received over 100 flights carrying necessary goods including food, pumps, medicines, tents, hygiene kits, blankets, (and) drinking water,” he said, lauding Türkiye’s role in helping the country during difficult times.

“The sheer scale of the calamity has stretched our resources and capacities to the limit, thus necessitating support from the international community,” he explained, adding, “and we have already seen an outpouring of that support and solidarity, with a large number of our friends and partners stepping forward with assistance to buttress the government-led relief efforts.” 

Tangible actions

Pointing out the SCO mandate, the prime minister said the regional grouping “undertakes joint efforts to address regional security threats and challenges.”

Read Shehbaz to meet Xi in Samarkand this week

“Combating the three evils of terrorism, separatism and extremism form the core of security cooperation framework amongst SCO member states through the platform of SCO RATS,” he explained.

Concerning the regional bloc’s socioeconomic development agenda, he stated that the framework has become comprehensive in the last 20 years.

“The SCO leaders have taken initiatives in diverse areas such as commerce, transport connectivity, industrial cooperation, energy, food, security and climate change,” he said, adding that Pakistan participates in the “collective effort to ensure regional peace as well as economic development” of the SCO region, which forms around 40% of the global population.

Pakistan believes that the SCO’s economic agenda should be translated into tangible actions, he said.

The eight-member SCO, founded in 2001, aims to strengthen friendly, good neighbourly relations and mutual trust among member states. 

‘Onus on India to create environment for engagement’

On Pakistan-India relations, the premier said that Islamabad has “consistently advocated constructive engagement and result-oriented dialogue” with New Delhi on all outstanding issues, including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

He said he had expressed his “sincere desire to engage with India in the pursuit of long-term regional peace. “Unfortunately, India’s unabated hostility and retrogressive steps have vitiated the regional environment and impeded the prospects of peace and cooperation,” he alleged.

“India’s unilateral and illegal actions of Aug 5, 2019, not only seek to suppress the legitimate right of the Kashmiri people to determine their own destiny, but have also grievously harmed the possibility of a result-oriented engagement between Pakistan and India,” he added.

“Developments in the last three years have made amply clear India’s nefarious designs of altering the demographic composition of IIOJK (Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir) in violation of UNSC resolutions, international law and 4th Geneva Convention,” according to the premier.

He added that the future of South Asia “cannot be held hostage indefinitely by the vitriol and communal hate mindset of the BJP-RSS government which it brazenly employs to further its policy of state-terrorism in the IIOJK.”

As an advocate for regional connectivity, collective prosperity, and long-term peace, Pakistan remains committed to result-oriented and constructive engagement with India,” he asserted, urging New Delhi to “realise that the only path to durable peace in South Asia lies in the just resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with relevant UNSC resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people.”

The onus continues to be on India to create a conducive environment for meaningful engagement, he said. 

Türkiye support hailed

PM Shehbaz commended Türkiye for its assistance during Pakistan’s floods and thanked the international community for coming to Islamabad’s aid in this time of crisis.

“I would particularly mention the role played by Türkiye in reaching out and providing support. I would like to thank President Erdogan for his personal interest in this regard,” he said.

Türkiye was one of the first countries to respond to the floods in Pakistan, sending 12 planes and four “Kindness Trains” loaded with rescue and relief supplies to the country.

On Erdogan’s instructions, a high-level ministerial delegation led by Türkiye’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu toured Pakistan to assess flood damage.

Turkiye’s support reflects historical fraternal ties between the two nations and a common resolve to support each other during difficult times, prime minister said.

“Pakistan has always considered Türkiye as a brotherly nation. It has always been our endeavour to further strengthen our ties in all areas,” Shehbaz said, recalling his April visit to Ankara shortly after assuming power.

Islamabad has already extended an invitation to Erdogan to visit Pakistan for the 7th session of the High-level Strategic Cooperation Council, he said.

During his bilateral meeting with the Turkish president on the sidelines of the SCO summit, PM Shehbaz said the two sides “discussed matters related to bilateral relations and international affairs.”

“I extended my gratitude to President Erdogan and to the people of Türkiye for their solidarity and generous support in the wake of devastating floods in Pakistan caused by climate change,” he added.

“We also decided to maintain close contact and continue high-level exchanges to further enhance the multidimensional strategic relations between Pakistan and Türkiye,” he added. 



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