UNITED NATIONS, Sept 23 (APP): Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif on Friday said that despite negligible carbon emissions, Pakistan’s economy and people were paying the dual cost of climate injustice and high global warming leading to devastating floods that required the world leaders to take immediate remedial actions.
“It is high time we took a pause from the preoccupations of the 20th century to return to the challenges of the 21st. The entire definition of national security has changed today, and unless the leaders of the world come together to act now behind minimum agreed agenda, there will be no earth to fight wars over. Nature will be fighting back, and for that humanity is no match”, the Prime Minister said while addressing 77th session of the UN General Assembly.
“As I stand here today to tell the story of my country, Pakistan, my heart and mind have not been able to leave home. No words can describe the shock we are living through or how the face of the country lies transformed.”
“I have come here to explain first hand, the scale and magnitude of this climate catastrophe that has pushed one-third of my country under water in a super storm that no one has seen in living memory,” he added.
The Prime Minister said that for 40 days and 40 nights a biblical flood poured down on us, smashing centuries of weather records, challenging everything we knew about disaster, and how to manage it.
“Even today, huge swathes of the country are still under-water, submerged in an ocean of human suffering. In this ground zero of climate change, 33 million people, including women and children are now at high risk from health hazards, with 650,000 women giving birth in makeshift tarpaulins.”
“More than 1500 of my people have perished in the great flood, including over 400 children. Far more are in peril from disease and malnutrition. As we speak, millions of climate migrants are still looking for dry land to pitch their tents on, with heart-breaking losses to their families, their futures and their livelihoods,” he added.
The Prime Minister said the early estimates suggested that more than 13000 kms of metalled roads have been damaged, over 370 bridges have been swept away, a million homes have been destroyed and another million damaged.
“More than a million farm animals have been killed. Four Million acres of crops have been washed away, stripping the people of their breadbasket, and damage of an unimaginable scale,” he added.
The prime minister told the world body that Pakistan’s urgent priority right was to ensure rapid economic growth and lift millions out of destitution and hunger. To enable any such policy momentum, Pakistan needed a stable external environment, he added.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that Pakistan had never seen a more stark and devastating example of the impact of Global Warming. “Life in Pakistan has changed forever,” he added.
“Through this calamity, I have visited, and spent time in every corner of my devastated country. People in Pakistan ask why, why has this happened to them? When global warming rips apart whole families and an entire country at this ferocious speed, it is time to ask why, and time to ask not what can be done but what MUST be done,” he remarked.
The Prime Minister said, “The undeniable, and inconvenient truth is that this calamity has not been triggered by anything we have done. Our glaciers are melting fast, our forests are burning, and our heat waves have crossed 53 degree Celsius, making us the hottest place on the planet.”
“Now, we live through an unprecedented monster monsoon. It is literally a monsoon on steroids, as the UN Secretary General described it most befittingly. One thing is very clear: What happened in Pakistan will not stay in Pakistan,” he remarked.
The Prime Minister quoted the UN Secretary General as candidly saying that “hotspots like Pakistan fall in the ten most climate-vulnerable list of countries, but emit less than one percent of the greenhouse gasses that are burning our planet. It is therefore, entirely reasonable to expect some approximation of justice for this loss and damage, not to mention building back better with resilience. Clearly, the time for talk about actions has passed.”
The Prime Minister thanked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who visited Pakistan and spent time with climate refugees, with mothers and children in the tents, adding, the UN Secretary General repeatedly assured Pakistan of his support and assistance.
“At this point, I want to thank each and every one of the countries that have sent help, and their representatives to Pakistan to stand in solidarity with us in our most trying hour. On behalf of my nation, I once again express my sincerest appreciation to all of them,” he added.
The Prime Minister said as the impacts on the health and wealth of his country were beyond calculation at this point, his real worry, was about the next stage of this challenge.
“When the cameras leave, and the story just shifts away to conflicts like the Ukraine, my question is, will we be left alone, to cope with a crisis we did not create?”, he questioned.
“Where and how do we begin, to rehabilitate and reconstruct, after the rescue and relief effort which is still going on for 12 long weeks? For many of the lives we have saved, the future is dimmed by new fragility, lost homes, decimated livelihoods, deluged croplands, permanent food insecurity and exposure to uncertain futures,” the Prime Minister remarked.
“Some 11 million people will be pushed further below the poverty line, while others will drift to cramped urban shelters, leaving little room for climate-smart rebuilding,” he added.
The Prime Minister said that for now, they have mobilized all available resources towards the national relief effort, and repurposed all budget priorities including development funds, to the rescue and first-order needs of millions.
He told the UNGA that cash transfers to the most affected, 4 million women heads of household, had begun weeks ago via their social security program, the Benazir Income Support Program, amounting to 70 billion rupees, (over $300 million).
“But at this point, the gap between our urgent needs and available resources is amplified by the sheer, unprecedented scale of the disaster. Our manpower and resources are totally overwhelmed,” he added.
The Prime Minister further said that the question to raise here though was quite a simple one. “Why are my people paying the price of such high global warming through no fault of their own? Nature has unleashed her fury on Pakistan without looking at our carbon footprint, which is next to nothing. Our actions did not contribute to this.”
“This is going to be a long haul, we can see that under the most trying circumstances, hope is the best enemy of darkness, and Pakistanis are known to be exceptionally resilient people,” he added.
The Prime Minister said that for his part, he was fully committed to fighting this battle for their survival, in the tents and trenches with his people, until they have rebuilt Pakistan to face the growing challenges of this century.
The prime minister told the world body that Pakistan looked for peace with all of its neighbours, including India. However, the sustainable peace and stability in South Asia remained contingent upon a just and lasting solution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.
“At the heart of this longstanding dispute lies the denial of the inalienable right of the Kashmiri people to self-determination. India’s illegal and unilateral actions of 5th August 2019, to change the internationally recognized “disputed” status of Jammu and Kashmir and to alter the demographic structure of the occupied territory further undermined the prospects of peace and inflamed regional tensions,” he remarked.
He said India’s relentless campaign of repression against Kashmiris had continued to grow in scale and intensity. In pursuit of this heinous goal, New Delhi has ramped up its military deployments in occupied Jammu and Kashmir to 900,000 troops, thus making it the most militarized zone in the world.
“The serial brutalization of Kashmiris takes many forms: extrajudicial killings, incarceration, custodial torture and death, indiscriminate use of force, deliberate targeting of Kashmiri youth with pellet guns, and ‘collective punishments’ imposed on entire communities,” the prime minister told the General Assembly.
Prime Minister Shehbaz said India was seeking to turn the Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir into a Hindu-majority territory, through illegal demographic changes.
“Millions of fake “domicile certificates” have been issued to non-Kashmiris; Kashmiri land and properties are being seized; electoral districts have been gerrymandered; and over 2.5 million non-Kashmiri illegal voters fraudulently registered. All this is in blatant violation of Security Council resolutions and international law, particularly the 4th Geneva Convention,” he told the 193-member world body.
He said Pakistani people have always stood by their Kashmiri brothers and sisters in complete solidarity, and would continue to do so until their right to self-determination is fully realized in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
The prime minister assured the world that Pakistan remained consistent in its commitment to peace in South Asia.
“We are neighbours and we are there forever. The choice is ours whether we live in peace or keep on fighting with each other. We have had three wars from 1947 onwards and as a consequence only miseries, poverty and unemployment increased on both sides.”
“It is now up to us to resolve our differences, our problems, our issues, like peaceful neighours through negotiations and discussions and save our scarce resources for providing education, health and employment to millions of people, on both sides of the divide.”
He stressed that the two nations should not waste resources on buying more ammunition and increasing tensions in the region.
“It is high time that India understands the message loud and clear. Both countries are armed to the teeth and war is not an option.”
“Only peaceful dialogue can resolve these issues so that the world becomes more peaceful in the times to come,” he remarked.
“India must take credible steps to create enabling environment for constructive engagement. It should demonstrate its sincerity and willingness, to walk the path of peace and dialogue by reversing its illegal steps of 15 August 2019, and ending forth-with, the process of demographic change,” he remarked and expressed the hope that the UNGA and Secretary-General would play their rightful role in urging India to implement the long pending UN resolutions.
Coming to the situation in Afghanistan, the prime minister said that 30 million Afghans were left without a functional economy and banking system that allowed ordinary Afghans to make a living to be able to build a better future.
He said Pakistan would like to see an “Afghanistan which is at peace with itself and the world, and which respects and nurtures all its citizens, without regard to gender, ethnicity and religion.”
He told the gathering that Pakistan was working to encourage respect for the rights of Afghan girls and women to education and work.
“Yet, at this point, isolating the Afghan Interim Government could aggravate the suffering of the Afghan people, who are already destitute. Constructive engagement and economic support are more likely to secure a positive response.
A peaceful, prosperous and connected Afghanistan is in our collective interest,” the prime minister commented.
He said being a neighbor, Pakistan had a vital stake in peace and stability in Afghanistan as the country had also led the humanitarian efforts to help the Afghan people.
“We must avoid another civil war, rising terrorism, drug trafficking or new refugees – which none of Afghanistan’s neighbors are in a position to accommodate,” he said and urged the international community to respond in a positive way to the UN Secretary-General’s appeal for $4.2 billion in humanitarian and economic assistance to Afghanistan; release Afghanistan’s financial reserves, essential to revive its banking system.
Prime Minister Shehbaz told the General Assembly that Pakistan shared the key concern of the international community regarding the threat posed by the major terrorist groups operating from Afghanistan, especially ISIL-K and TTP as well as Al-Qaida, ETIM and IMU.
However, he said “they all need to be dealt with comprehensively, with the support and cooperation of the Interim Afghan authorities. In turn, the international community should address Afghanistan’s dire humanitarian needs.”
Prime Minister Shehbaz told the gathering of world leaders that Pakistan strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
“Terrorism does not have a religion. It is based on dogma, fueled by poverty, deprivation, injustice and ignorance, and fanned by vested interests,” he commented.
Calling Pakistan a “principal victim of terrorism” he said over last two decades, the country had suffered more than 80,000 casualties and over $150 billion in economic losses due to terrorist attacks.
He said Pakistan’s armed forces, with the support of its people, had broken the back of terrorism within Pakistan.
He said Pakistan yet continued to suffer terrorist attacks from across our borders, sponsored and financed by its regional adversary but the country was determined to defeat such cross-border terrorism.
Calling Islamophobia a global phenomenon, the prime minister told the General Assembly that since 9/11, suspicion and fear of Muslims and discrimination against them had escalated to epidemic proportions.
He said officially sponsored campaign of oppression against India’s over 200 million Muslims was the worst manifestation of Islamophobia who were subjected to discriminatory laws and policies, Hijab bans, attacks on mosques, and lynchings by Hindu mobs.
“I am particularly concerned by the calls for ‘genocide’ against India’s Muslims by some extremist groups,” he remarked.
Earlier this year, he said the UN General Assembly adopted a landmark resolution, introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the OIC, designating March 15 as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia which should lead to concrete measures by the UN and Member States to combat Islamophobia and promote interfaith harmony.
Reiterating Pakistan’s deep concerns over the numerous conflicts across the Middle East – including in Syria and Yemen, the prime minister said Pakistan supported all possible efforts to promote their peaceful resolution.
“We call on Israel to put an immediate end to the blatant use of force and flagrant violations of human rights of the Palestinian people and the repeated desecration of the Holy Al Aqsa mosque,” he stated.
Prime Minister Shehbaz said that the only just, comprehensive and lasting solution of the Palestinian question was the acceptance of a viable, independent and contiguous Palestinian State, with the pre-1967 borders, and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
The prime minister said that the UN Security Council and the General Assembly must be empowered to play their respective roles under the UN Charter.
“The Security Council must be expanded by adding 11 new non-permanent members to make it more representative, democratic, transparent, effective and accountable. Adding new permanent members will paralyze the Council’s decision-making, enlarge its representational deficit, and create new centres of privilege in violation of the principle of sovereign equality of Member States,” he commented.
Calling for the nations to step back from the precipice, he urged the world to restore peace in Europe, avoid a war in Asia and resolve festering conflicts across the world.
“We will work with all those committed to the UN Charter’s principles – to restore the vision which created the United Nations and to equip this Organization with the capacity to preserve global peace and promote universal prosperity,” he added.
The prime minister said, “Pakistan is a partner for peace. We want to have long lasting and enduring peace with India. Peace can only be ensured and guaranteed through just and fair resolution of the Kashmir issue, by providing rights to the people of Kashmir, under UN charter and according to the Security Council resolutions and the right of self-determination.”
“I will be most forthcoming and then sit down and talk to my Indian counterpart and pave the way forward for future so that our future generations do not suffer and so that we spend our resources on mitigating miseries”
“We are developing societies and we do not have unlimited resources. We must deploy our resources for the well being of the people, our children and for their empowerment, employment, health and education.”