UNITED NATIONS, United States: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif warned the United Nations Friday that climate disasters will not remain confined to his country, in the wake of devastating floods.
“What happened in Pakistan will not stay in Pakistan,” he said in his address to the 77th United Nations General Assembly Session.
“Pakistan has never seen a more stark and devastating example of the impact of global warming. Life in Pakistan has changed forever.”
The prime minister said that devastating floods left 33 million people including women and children homeless, while killing more than 1500 people and over 1 million animals.
The premier said that he was worried that after the conclusion of the 77th session of the UNGA, the world’s attention may shift to other issues.
“Will we be left alone, to cope with a crisis we did not create?” the premier asked, reminding the international community that Pakistan is not to blame for a climate crisis-fuelled disaster.
He said people in Pakistan were asking for reasons for the destruction caused by floods. “The undeniable truth is that the calamity has not been triggered by anything we have done,” he said.
The premier said that Pakistan’s treasury and people were paying the dual cost of climate injustice, high global warming and inaction despite emitting less than 1% of greenhouse gases.
“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.
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.
“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.
PM 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.
“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 armed forces, with the support of its people, had broken the back of terrorism within the country, adding that Pakistan yet continued to suffer terrorist attacks from across borders, sponsored and financed by its regional adversary but the country was determined to defeat such cross-border terrorism.