NEW YORK: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and former US Senator John Kerry agreed on Wednesday to enhance Pak-US cooperation to fight climate challenge as US President Joe Biden in his speech to the UN General Assembly made a fervent call for extending help to Pakistan where floods have caused huge devastation.
Former US Senator Kerry took to Twitter to share about his meeting with PM Shehbaz. “PMShehbaz and I discussed Pakistan’s devastating floods, the $55 million in US humanitarian assistance thus far, and the urgent need to work together to fight the climate crisis and prevent future tragedies,” he tweeted, further consoling with the flood-hit population.
He said the US was ready to engage with Pakistan to collaborate in rebuilding resilient infrastructure as well as other forms of support that would avert such a crisis in future. Both sides agreed to continue to closely focus on climate change and energy dialogue.
The PM held a meeting with the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, on the sidelines of the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif appreciated the role of the United States in addressing the issue of climate change and thanked the country for extending help to Pakistan in the face of the devastating floods, the prime minister’s office said.
Noting that “the devastating floods have made Pakistan ground zero for climate change”, the PM appreciated Kerry’s personal leadership in raising awareness and seeking solutions to the climate change crisis. He acknowledged the important role being played by the Biden administration to address the climate change.
The premier conveyed gratitude for immediate US assistance in the wake of devastating floods in Pakistan. He emphasised the need for continued support from the international community, not only in the immediate recovery and relief efforts but also during the subsequent reconstruction and rehabilitation phase.
PM Shehbaz stressed that Pakistan contributed less than 1 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions, yet it was among the ten most vulnerable countries to climate change. With over 1,400 casualties, 33 million people displaced as climate refugees, out of which over six hundred thousand were pregnant women, four million acres of crops destroyed, entire villages and livelihoods swept away, Pakistan is facing an unprecedented natural disaster.
The prime minister underscored the importance of the United States’ leadership in enabling developing countries, including Pakistan, to deliver on their climate action commitments under the Paris Agreement by providing sufficient tools in the shape of climate finance, technology transfer and capacity-building assistance.
Special Envoy Kerry expressed solidarity with the people and government of Pakistan and reaffirmed the US administration’s continued support in facing the challenges due to the floods.
Taking to Twitter, the PM’s Office shared about the meeting between Prime Minister Shehbaz and special envoy Kerry. “He emphasised the need for continued support from the international community, not only in the immediate recovery and relief efforts, but also during the subsequent reconstruction and rehabilitation phase,” the PM’s Office stated.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden in his speech to the UN General Assembly made a fervent call for extending help to Pakistan where floods have caused huge devastation. “Pakistan is still under water, needs help,” the president told the 193-member assembly in its high-level debate, when he dealt with the adverse impacts of climate change. The iconic hall of the General Assembly was packed-to-capacity with world leaders, including Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, when Biden spoke.
In his address, Biden announced over $2.9 billion in new assistance to address global food insecurity, building on the $6.9 billion in US government assistance to support global food security already committed this year.
The compounding impacts of the pandemic, the deepening climate crisis, rising energy and fertilizer costs, and protracted conflicts – including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – had disrupted global supply chains and dramatically increased global food prices, he said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif directed his party’s leadership to take emergency steps for the provision of baby food and other essential items in the flood-hit areas of the country.
Addressing a meeting on flood situation through video link from New York, he directed the relevant authorities to mobilise provincial governments, donors and members of food industry in this regard. The prime minister also directed Finance Minister Miftah Ismail to immediately release Rs5 billion for relief activities. He said food supply to the malnutrition, and stunted-children should be ensured at all costs.
The prime minister said in order to overcome the shortage of tents, an order has been placed for supply of two hundred thousand tents. He said under this order, ten thousand tents will be provided on daily basis. The prime minister also directed ensuring smooth supply of required medicines, including Panadol and Paracetamol.
Shehbaz Sharif said he held meetings with the presidents of Spain, France and Chancellor of Austria to reinforce the government’s appeal for relief goods to the flood-affected people in Pakistan. The prime minister said he will highlight the need of all relief goods for the poor people in flooded areas.
While directing the authorities to call an emergency meeting of the drug manufacturing association to devise a mechanism for the supply of medicines in flood-hit areas, the prime minister said, “We are taking every possible measure to serve the suffering humanity in a practical way.”
The meeting was informed that strict action has been taken against the people involved in the hoarding of Panadol while confiscating 48 million doses of the desired medicine. Besides, foreign donors and NGOs have also been requested to provide the essential medicines.
Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique informed the forum that supply of tents was not sufficient and most of the people are making their own arrangements. He regretted that the momentum of the national movement was not sufficient to deal with the scope of calamity. He requested the prime minister to personally launch a campaign involving celebrities of the country.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed gratitude to the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for strongly advocating the need for urgent collective action in the wake of massive floods in Pakistan.
“Thank you, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for your strong advocacy of the plight of flood victims and drawing the world’s attention to the most urgent actionable issue of climate change,” he posted on his Twitter handle.
The prime minister stressed that the international community needed to move away from talking about climate change to acting together. PM Sharif thanked Turkish President Erdogan for highlighting the need for international assistance to Pakistan amid its post-flood problems in the shape of relief and rehabilitation.
“My brother President Erdogan highlights the need for the continued international assistance to help Pakistan deal with the disastrous flood,” he said in another tweet.
The prime minister also acknowledged the continued support of President Erdogan for the right to self-determination of the Kashmiris of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). “We thank the president for his consistent support for the rights of Kashmiris of IIOJK,” he said.
World Bank Group President David Malpass and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Ms Karistalina Georgieva separately called on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. During the meetings, the two sides discussed the economic issues faced by Pakistan, with particular reference to the situation after devastating floods in the country.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif at the UN General Assembly. Anthony Blinken expressed sympathy for the flood victims. He said that the US will stand with Pakistan at this difficult time.
Later, chairing a virtual meeting, Prime Minister Shehbaz said that the government would provide subsidy to the producers of Paracetamol tablets to make them affordable to people. The premier and other authorities concerned reviewed the pace of various flood relief and rehabilitation activities in the flood-hit areas across Pakistan.
The meeting was attended by Finance Minister Miftah Ismail, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, Adviser to Prime Minister Ahad Cheema and other senior officers concerned. The prime minister reviewed the distribution of food items, tents and medicines in the affected areas. He ordered the authorities concerned to make use of all available resources to distribute essential food items, especially baby food in the affected areas on emergency basis.
The prime minister also took stock of the restoration of roads, rails, bridges and other infrastructure damaged in the devastating floods, and ordered the relevant federal and provincial departments to accelerate their efforts in order to make them operational as early as possible.
The prime minister also congratulated Ahsan Iqbal for his acquittal in a NAB case by Islamabad High Court. Terming it good news, the prime minister regretted that the previous government was involved in witch-hunting of its opponents and tried to implicate them in false cases through awkward manner.