World must stand with us: Shehbaz urges intnl community to provide debt relief for flood-hit Pakistan
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday made an urgent appeal to international donors to provide relief for a debt-trapped Pakistan apart from immediately launching special programs for the rehabilitation of flood-affected people of the country.
In an interview with Bloomberg in New York on Friday, the prime minister said Pakistan needs additional funds to tackle the unprecedented destruction wreaked by climate-induced floods.
“It is impossible to revive our economy with this unprecedented destruction without substantial debt relief,” he said.
Shehbaz added that recently they revived a loan agreement with the IMF with very tough conditions which compels his administration to impose taxes on basics such as electricity and petroleum products.
PM Shehbaz Sharif said during his trip to New York, he has spoken not only to European leaders but also to leaders of international financial institutions and urged them “to help us, in the Paris Club, get a moratorium”.
“Unless we get substantial relief how can the world expect us to stand on our own feet? It is simply impossible,” he said.
“The world has to stand by us.”
Commending the generosity shown by the world community in coming to Pakistan’s aid, the premier said that there remains a “yawning gap” between what Pakistan is asking for and what has been made available, warning that the nation is facing the imminent threat of epidemics and other dangers.
“God forbid this happens, all hell will [break loose],” he said.
He said in the midst of an economic crisis, the unprecedented floods had displaced millions of people, destroyed standing crops spread over millions of hectares besides washing away infrastructure and thousands of houses.
The premier said they now have to rehabilitate the displaced millions, provide them with safe housing and medical facilities, and build climate-resilient infrastructure.
He said Pakistan will also have to import tons of wheat this year to meet basic food requirements as millions of acres of agricultural land have been inundated by floods.
Shehbaz said it was very unfortunate that Pakistan’s contribution in global carbon emissions was only 0.8% but it is among the ten most vulnerable countries to be affected from climate change.
Referring to his interactions with world leaders on the sidelines of UN General Assembly session, Shehbaz Sharif said the entire global community has pledged all-out support realizing the calamitous situation.
“Today we have become victims of climate change but tomorrow it could be you or someone else, so do you want this or do you want to stop this?” he recalled telling world leaders.
Reconciliation with Imran?
Asked about the ratcheting political pressure at home from ousted prime minister Imran Khan, Shehbaz stated that this was not a time to play politics.
“I would like to convey to all my friends and of Pakistan, let us join hands together, let us unite, let’s bury our differences and let’s discuss politics some other time; It is a time to come together and serve humanity for our brothers and sisters and get them out of water and put them in safe places.”
Importing oil from Russia
To a question about importing fuel from Russia which had just stepped up troop deployments around Ukraine, he said he spoke to President Vladimir Putin recently but nothing has been finalized yet.
Shehbaz detailed that he spoke about the possibility of importing oil and wheat from Ukraine and that the Russian president had hinted at the availability of gas.
Normalizing relations with India
To a question about if his administration wants to normalize ties with India, he said “most definitely.”
He quickly continued that India remains a neighbor, even if that neighbor was not by choice.
The two countries must realize that we are neighbors forever and should channel our abilities and resources for the good of people instead of fighting each other, he said.
Pakistan is ready to negotiate on all outstanding issues with Kashmir on the top of agenda.