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Climate change can pose existential threat to Pakistan, warns Murad

By Our Correspondent
December 15, 2022

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has said that Pakistan is strategically situated on the map of the world, so it has a significant role to play in international politics.

“With access to the Arabian Sea, its Gwadar Port is important to Pakistan due to its prime location. It’s also important to China, Pakistan’s all-weather friend that has made massive investments to provide world-class facilities of docking at the port, thereby increasing the existing economic and strategic interdependence between the two countries.”

The Sindh CM stated this on Wednesday while speaking at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs’ (PIIA) 75th Anniversary Conference on Pakistan and the Changing Global Order at a local hotel.

The CM said that climate change could be an existential threat to countries like Pakistan. “Overflowing rivers, melting sea ice, food insecurities — all are threatening our future and creating new tensions among competing powers in the world,” he said, adding that experts were now studying the convergence of climate change and national security.

He said that in recent years they had seen the shift of geopolitical power from the West to the East, and had witnessed the rise of Asia, especially through ASEAN, a resilient Africa, and more importantly, China with its expanding outreach through its Belt and Road Initiative.

He said the PIIA through its conference had put on the table every issue of contemporary importance in the changing global order, as the moot would be addressed by a galaxy of scholars and diplomats from Pakistan and abroad.

He added that it was a good decision that the subject related to peace in the fluid global order would be issued at the end of the conference. “The changing world order will take time to find a new equilibrium,” he said.

The CM said that the world was mired in conflicts and divisions for reasons which were historical and geographical. “Hence, a concerted approach to all issues and challenges within and outside Pakistan is the need of the hour,” he suggested.

“We ourselves are beneficiaries of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor [CPEC], which will bring vast economic benefits to our country,” he said, adding that CPEC highlighted the significance of the development of the Gwadar Port for the economy of Pakistan.

The CM said that Pakistan’s own region was beset with unsettled issues. “The unresolved Kashmir issue and the unrelenting brutality of the Indian government against the Kashmiri people is a cause of universal concern,” he said, adding that their suffering continued unabated and so did their resolve to decide their own future.

Shah said that stability in Afghanistan was a challenge for all players in the region. “Pakistan faces its own challenges not only of border security but also of water and food security,” he said.

He told the audience that Pakistan was the fifth largest country in the world in terms of population, and had been an active and progressive power on the world stage. He said that in the changing global order, it was one of the nine declared nuclear powers. “It’s a responsible nuclear power that has always used nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,” he added.

Even as a young nation, Pakistan stood by countries struggling against colonial rule and lobbied for their independence from their colonial masters, the CM said. He added that it is a member of many treaties dealing with support to developing and least developed countries and humanitarian laws. Pakistan is one of the foremost providers of peacekeepers to United Nations forces, he pointed out.

He also said that Pakistan was a member of intergovernmental organisations such as the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

The CM said that he was glad that the PIIA conference addressed the issue of climate change. “Many countries of the world, including Pakistan, which is not responsible for the emerging climate catastrophe, are afflicted with the effects of climate change,” he said, adding that experts were now studying the convergence of climate change and national security.

The CM said that climate change had ravaged the country during the recent massive flooding. “Bringing relief to people displaced by the floods and made homeless has been a major challenge for my government. But we have put our hearts and souls into the efforts to retrieve their homes and livelihoods and to rehabilitate them,” he added.

Shah said that his government had been a leading force in enacting progressive legislation in many spheres. “We have given legal protection to women, the minorities, the marginalised and children,” he said, adding that over the last few years the Sindh government had adopted many pro-women laws.

According to the CM, Sindh is the first province to enact a law against domestic violence, ‘The Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act, 2013’, and the landmark ‘The Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act, 2013’. The provincial chief executive hoped that the recommendations of the conference would help in the formulating of policies which could help resolve the contemporary world problems.

‘Dissolving PA at whim’

Talking to media persons after attending the conference, Shah said the constitution does empower the chief executive of a province to dissolve the provincial assembly, but such a power can only be exercised in extreme conditions as described in the constitution.

The CM said the constitution did not grant unbridled powers to the chief executive of a province to dissolve the PA at his whim just for creating a political or constitutional crisis or void in the country.

“There’s definitely a provision in the constitution empowering a chief minister to dissolve the assembly, but it shouldn’t be the case that a CM one fine morning wakes up from sleep and all of a sudden makes up his mind to take such an action or else he decides to dissolve the assembly after being asked so by someone else for creating a political crisis in the country,” he said.

He told the media persons that the constitution did define the circumstances in which a CM could take the extreme action of dissolving the PA. These conditions are: either the CM thinks he is unable to govern in the province and run its affairs as per the constitution or he has lost the confidence of the majority of the members of the assembly.

He hoped that the CMs of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also very well knew that the assembly could only be dissolved in such circumstances. Shah, however, said that no constitutional crisis would be created in the country if the CM of a province decided to dissolve the PA.

The Sindh CM hoped that better sense would prevail and no CM would opt for the dissolving of his assembly before the completion of its tenure. “If in case an assembly is dissolved, there won’t be any issue for us because we’ll contest the elections,” he said.

Replying to a question, the CM maintained that the official plane of the Sindh government had not been used to bring the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s imprisoned Senator Azam Khan Swati to the province.

He said the concerned political stakeholders should sit together to find solutions to serious economic problems faced by the country due to a number of global factors.

Responding to another query, he agreed that the natural gas shortage faced by the industries of Karachi was a major issue, as it could lead to the closure of industrial units and increase joblessness in the province. The chief minister said that he was in touch with the relevant federal authorities to get the issue resolved at the earliest.