The AP Interview: Pakistani leader details flood devastation

USA – Flooding could be made worse by climate change The Prime Minister of Pakistan has submerged a third of Pakistan’s territory and left 33 million people struggling to survive. nation.”

In an extensive interview with The Associated Press, Shahbaz Sharif encouraged world leaders gathered during their annual meeting at the General Assembly to stand together and mobilize resources “to build resilient infrastructure, building resilience, so that our future generations are saved.”

The initial estimate of the damage to the economy due to flood disaster lasting three months is $30 billion, Sharif said, and he asked United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday to hold a donor conference quickly. The head of the UN agreed, Sharif said.

“Thousands of kilometers of roads have been destroyed, washed away – railway bridges, railway tracks, communications, tunnels, traffic. All of this takes money,” said Sharif. “We need money to provide a livelihood for our people.”

Sharif, brother of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Inaugurated in April after a tumultuous week in Pakistan. He replaced Imran Khan, a cricket star turned politician, one of the country’s most senior leaders of the previous generation and still retains widespread influence. Khan was ousted in a vote of no confidence after three and a half years in office.

While climate change could increase rainfall by up to 50% late last month in two southern Pakistani provinces, global warming is not the biggest cause of catastrophic flooding in the country. according to a new scientific analysis. Pakistan’s overall vulnerability, including those living in vulnerable circumstances, is a key factor.

However, human-caused climate change “plays a really important role here too,” said senior author Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College London. said earlier this month.

Either way, Sharif said the impact on his country has been immeasurable. More than 1,600 people have died, including hundreds of children. Crops of over 4 million acres have been washed away. Millions of homes were damaged or completely destroyed, and life savings disappeared in the devastating flood caused by monsoon rains.

Mr. Sharif said Pakistan is a victim of climate change made worse by the actions of other countries, saying Pakistan is responsible for less than 1% of the carbon emissions that cause warming. up globally. “We are victims of something we have nothing to do with,” the prime minister said.

He reiterated his feelings Friday afternoon while speaking to fellow leaders at the General Assembly, telling them other places are next. “One thing is very clear,” he said. “What happened in Pakistan will not stay in Pakistan.”

Even before the flooding started in mid-June, Pakistan was facing severe challenges from grain shortages and skyrocketing crude oil prices, mainly caused by the invasion of Ukraine on May 24. 2 of Russia and the war that followed. Sharif said soaring prices have made oil imports “beyond our means” and – with the damage and devastation caused by massive floods – solutions have become “extremely difficult”.

Pakistan may have to import about a million tons of wheat because of the destruction of arable land. He said it could come from Russia, but the country is open to other offers. The country also needs fertilizer because the factories involved in their production have closed.

Sharif said the country had “a very strong, transparent mechanism” in place to ensure that all aid items get into the hands of those in need. In addition, he said, “I will make sure a third party audits every penny through reputable international companies.”

The Pakistani leader said he had met top officials from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and called for a moratorium on loan repayments and other conditions until the flood situation improves. benevolent.

“They seem very supportive,” Sharif said, but he stressed that a delay “could have huge consequences” – both for the Pakistani economy and for the people of Pakistan.

One aspect of the grain purchases addresses one of Pakistan’s most enduring problems – its relationship with neighboring India.

Would Pakistan consider buying grain from India if needed? Sharif says that concept is hampered by “a legal knot” – Kashmir, a Himalayan territory that both countries claim but is divided between. It has been at the center of two of the four wars that India has fought with Pakistan and China.

“India is a neighbor and Pakistan is keen to live as a peaceful neighbor to India,” said Sharif. “But that has certain prerequisites. India must understand that unless and until the burning issue of Kashmir is resolved through peaceful negotiations… as peaceful neighbours, with sincere intentions, we will not be able to. live in peace. “

“And that’s a big shame and shame,” he said. “Because in this day and age we need our resources to feed people, to educate them, to provide employment opportunities and health opportunities. India cannot afford to spend money to buy ammunition and defense equipment. So is Pakistan”.

On the other side of Pakistan, to the west, is Afghanistan – which shares geography, strategic interests and many ethnic heritages with the nation of Sharif. Sharif said their Taliban rulers, who have been in power for a year, have a “golden opportunity to ensure peace and progress” for the people by adhering to the Doha Agreement, which the previous government, The country’s more international minded signed in February 2020 with the administration of former US president Donald Trump.

The Taliban should provide equal opportunities including university education for girls, employment opportunities for women, respect human rights and leave Afghan assets unblocked, the prime minister said.

The Doha Agreement calls for the United States to withdraw its forces, which incumbent President Joe Biden did during a chaotic pullout when the Taliban took over the country in August 2021. The agreement stipulates the commitments the Taliban make. is expected to be taken to prevent terrorism, including the obligation to renounce al-Qaida and prevent Afghan land from being used to carry out attacks against the United States or its allies as before. 9/11.

If the Taliban sign the deal, Sharif said, “they have to respect it.”

“This is what the peace-loving, law-abiding international community, myself included, expects from them,” he said. “And let’s work together in that direction.”

Relations between Pakistan and the United States have been hollow for more than a generation. After 9/11, the two were allies against extremism even as, many assert, elements in the Pakistani military and government were encouraging it.

Today, former prime minister Khan’s anti-American rhetoric in recent years has increased anger against the US in Pakistan and created a number of obstacles in relations.

In the interview, Sharif said his government wants a “good, warm relationship” with the United States and wants to work with Biden to “remove any kind of misunderstanding and confusion.”

In careful language that reflects his efforts to balance international and domestic constituencies, he sought to distance himself from Khan’s approach – and to reaffirm and restore the kind of relationship that he said the people he represented would want.

“What the previous government did, in the name of this, was most unwelcome, to the detriment of the sovereign interests of Pakistan,” Sharif said. “It is certainly not in line with what the Pakistani people believe and expect.”

Edith M. Lederer is the AP’s chief UN correspondent and has covered international affairs for more than half a century. For more information on the AP about the UN General Assembly, visit ( -general-assembly. )

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