NEW YORK: Foreign Minister and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Thursday said he wanted climate justice for his country, as its carbon footprint was only 0.8 percent of the total carbon emissions of the world.
Speaking about the massive floods in Pakistan during an event organized by the Council on Foreign Relations here, Bilawal said, “All of a sudden we are among the 10 most climate stressed countries on the planet. We are on number 8.”
He said the catastrophe of floods in Pakistan was apocalyptic and of epic and biblical proportions. “The rains went on for months till the end of August, and one-third of Pakistan submerged in flood waters,” he added.
He said 33 million people were affected during the floods and they became homeless and now their problems had compounded due to the water-borne diseases including malaria. “We need the assistance of the international community, including the World Health Organization, to tackle the water-borne diseases.”
The minister pointed that Pakistan was facing the issue of economic and food insecurity and during the flood, four million acres of standing crops were destroyed. “We fear that the planting of wheat crops after two months will not be possible.”
Talking about the economic difficulties of Pakistan, Bilawal said, “We were in very difficult negotiations with the IMF and just reached an agreement with the financial institution. Pakistan was hoping to enjoy a short space of economic relief but all the economic figures and estimates which were shared with the IMF were also washed away in the floods.”
He said the guesstimate of the economic cost of the flood damages was close to $30 billion. This catastrophe was not the fault of the people of Dadu in Sindh, Naseerabad in Balochistan, Dera Ghazi Khan in South Punjab and of Dera Ismail Khan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but it was due to effects of climate change.
He expressed gratitude to the United Nations Secretary General, the UN agencies and United States for extending support to Pakistan in the aftermath of the natural disaster. “I am encouraged by the sympathy, solidarity and support offered by the United Nations, United States and others. We want to be able to rebuild lives and livelihoods of people of Pakistan in a just manner. Every crisis does indeed also offer an opportunity. We will have to construct our lives, our irrigation and communication infrastructure, and we want to do so in a better way, in a greener and climate resilient way.”
“I believe this is the moment when Pakistan can plan, going forward to adapt ourselves to the increasingly frequent climate catastrophes that we now face,” he observed. “I must say that Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is the leading voice on climate and environment in Pakistan and is putting this agenda forward.
We are focused on wind and solar energy and now climate adaptation will be our main focus,” Bilawal added. Meanwhile, addressing a press conference at the UN Headquarters in New York as he wrapped up his engagements at the 77th session of the UN General Assembly, Bilawal said the Pakistan government took “swift and effective” action to deal with the unprecedented floods.
He said the floods had caused colossal destruction and called for generous international support during the next phases of rehabilitation and reconstruction. “This is a tragedy of monumental proportions. Extreme heat this summer melted many of Pakistan’s glaciers, with early flood outbreaks, and the heat intensified precipitation led to above-average rains,” the foreign minister said.
He said over fifteen hundred people were killed and thousands injured. Thirty-three million have been affected; 6 million are destitute. Over a million homes, 7,000 kilometers of roads, 300 bridges and 5 million acres of crops/orchids were destroyed. Bilawal said Pakistan was working on plans for rehabilitation once the flood waters recede, and would rebuild the lost infrastructure in a much better way, so that they could withstand future natural calamities.
The August 30 joint UN-Pakistan Flash Appeal of $160 million is being upgraded, and when the damage estimates are completed, a donors conference will be held to raise funds for rehabilitation and reconstructions in the devastated areas, he said.
Replying to a series of questions, the foreign minister said Pakistan believes that engagement with the Afghan interim government was essential to promote the international community’s aims to promote human rights, including women’s rights, political inclusivity and effective and comprehensive action against the terrorist organisations in Afghanistan.
Pakistan, he added, stands for women’s right to education. Bilawal criticised India’s unilateral and illegal measures of 5 August 2019 to annex Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), and to impose, what the Indian government has ominously called, a “Final Solution”, saying New Delhi had removed the political space for a peaceful and negotiated solution that could be acceptable to all parties.
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