77th UNGA session: PM Pakistan’s maiden address | BY M Fazal Ellahi

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77th UNGA session: PM Pakistan’s maiden address

THE 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session kicked off in New York on September 20, 2022.

This session of the world body will continue through September 26. The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif has already arrived in New York after attending the funeral of the longest-reigning British Monarch – Queen Elizabeth II in London on September 19.

Premier Shehbaz Sharif is scheduled to deliver his maiden address at the 77th session of the UNGA on September 23.

What would he be saying in his address to the highly distinguished heads of world countries who would be conspicuous by their presence at this momentous occasion?

Obviously, burning international issues, including the long-pending issue of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K), would and should form a significant part of his overall address.

However, equally important would be for him to persuasively highlight the gargantuan challenges that are confronting Pakistan today.

Pakistan, as known to the world, is passing through one of its most critical phase in history. The economy of the country is in a shambles.

Hyperinflation in the economy has made life extremely difficult particularly for the underprivileged segment of the society.

Things are getting worse by the day. While those at the helm of governance were struggling day in day out to steer Pakistan out of its gigantic economic predicaments, a catastrophe of biblical proportions has overwhelmed the entire country.

A catastrophe of such enormity has, perhaps, never been seen before in the decades-long history of Pakistan.

In a nutshell, literally everything has gone topsy-turvy. The Prime Minister should avail this singular opportunity to emphatically inform the world that the calamitous deluge that has overwhelmed Pakistan, has taken a heavy toll on the lives and hearth and home of thousands of people across the length and breadth of the country.

It has completely destroyed acres and acres of standing crops and infrastructure in the devastated areas.

It has swept away innumerable bridges, railway tracks and roads network. It has mercilessly devoured thousands of animals which were prized possessions of the devastated people …

prized, because they were the principal source of their livelihood. The world is fully cognizant of the fact that Pakistan is passing through one of its most critical times in history.

Its economy is in a terrible state. Despite severe financial constraints, the government continues to allocate whatever funds it can to provide much needed relief to the people devastated by the treacherous deluge that has hit the country.

The world should know, Pakistan cannot deal with a catastrophe of this enormity, unaided. It is a known fact, debt-ridden Pakistan does not possess the kind of resources that are required to undertake relief and rehabilitation work in the calamity-hit areas of the country.

This makes international assistance absolutely essential. Many from across the globe have raised their voice in support of Pakistan.

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has explicitly said: What is happening in Pakistan demonstrates the sheer inadequacy of the global response to the climate crisis, and the betrayal and injustice at the heart of it.

Whether it is Pakistan, the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, small islands or least developed countries, the world’s most vulnerable — who did nothing to cause this crisis — are paying a horrific price for decades of intransigence by big emitters.

Oxfam spokesperson Elizabeth Stuart said “Rebuilding will take years and billions of dollars, and a willingness on the part of the international community to help Pakistan get back on its feet”.

She said “A third of Pakistan’s budget revenues are currently spent on loan repayments. Pakistan’s resources must now be directed at recovery from this disaster, and a debt burden cannot be allowed to impede recovery”.

Pakistan, she further said, cannot be expected to service debt as it struggles to cope with the catastrophe.

The IMF together with all other multilateral and bilateral creditors should cancel the country’s debts, she emphasized.

American lawmaker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Robert Menendez while describing the $53 million US aid to flood-ravaged Pakistan is a ‘drop in the bucket’.

He called for doing ‘much more’ for the relief of an estimated 30 million displaced Pakistani people.

Senator Robert Menendez emphasized on the need to get a disaster relief package for Pakistan from the US Congress and organize an international donors’ conference for the flood victims in Pakistan.

UK MP Claudia Webbe has asked the world to cancel Pakistan’s international debts amid devastating floods that have wreaked havoc across the country.

The call from the UK lawmaker came as Pakistan deals with the worst climate disaster with officials saying more than 33 million people are affected, and reconstruction work will cost more than $10 billion.

(Pakistan, however, has expressed the fear that the floods might have caused over $40 billion in economic losses and damages).

Claudia Webbe made a fervent appeal to the world: “Pakistan’s international debt should be immediately cancelled – they should instead be given reparations for the climate crisis caused.”

All said and done, there couldn’t be a better opportunity for Pakistan than the ongoing 77th UN General Assembly (UNGA) session, to draw world attention towards the crisis of unparalleled magnitude that confronts it today.

The Prime Minister of Pakistan who is scheduled to address the distinguished heads of states present at the 77th UNGA session on September 23, should avail this unique opportunity to emphasize upon the world that the gargantuan deluge that has devastated Pakistan is not of its own making.

It is a verifiable fact that Pakistan contributes less than 1% of the global greenhouse gases that warm our planet but its geography makes it extremely vulnerable to climate change.

Premier Shehbaz Sharif should caution the world that the UN Development Program (UNDP) has emphatically told BBC ‘as the world warms, glacial ice is melting.

Glaciers in Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa regions are melting rapidly, creating more than 3,000 lakes.

Around 33 of these are at risk of sudden bursting, which could unleash millions of cubic meters of water and debris, putting 7 million people at risk’.

While duly acknowledging whatever international assistance that continues to flow into Pakistan, he should urge the world to cancel Pakistan’s international debts amid the devastating floods that have wreaked havoc of unparalleled magnitude across the country.

Pakistan, the world should be told, fears that the floods might have caused over $40 billion in economic losses and damages. This amount could be more than estimated, but certainly not less

—The writer is a columnist and analyst based in Islamabad.

 

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