Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said that Pakistan must not be made to go to rich countries with a “begging bowl” after the devastating floods in the country, adding that instead, he would be seeking climate justice” from the international community.
Devastating climate-induced floods this year wreaked havoc from north to south in Pakistan, with estimates showing nearly 1700 people being killed and more than Thiry-three million being affected in other ways.
In an interview with The Guardian, the Prime Minister warned that Pakistan was facing an unprecedented crisis of health, food security, and internal displacement caused by the “apocalyptic” monsoons, which put a third of Pakistan’s regions under water.
PM Shehbaz said that Pakistan was “responsible for 0.8% of global carbon emissions” and that it was the “responsibility of the developed countries, who caused these emissions, to stand by us”.
“I have never seen this kind of devastation, inundation, and suffering of our people in my lifetime. Millions have been displaced, they have become climate refugees within their own country,” the Guardian quoted PM Shehbaz as saying.
Talking about the help so far received from the international community, PM Shehbaz said that whatever the international community has given or pledged to give was “not enough”.
“The enormity of this climate-induced catastrophe is beyond our fiscal means. The gap between our needs and what is available is too wide, and it is widening by the day,” PM Shehbaz added.
Mentioning the extent of the damage, PM Shehbaz said that it had been put at between $30 billion and $35 billion, but, the Prime Minister said, it was “a rough estimate, it could be more”.
“Let me be clear, this is about climate justice. We are not blaming anybody, we are not casting allegations, what we are saying is this is not of our making but we have become a victim. Should I be asked to cast my appeal into a begging bowl? That is double jeopardy. That is unjust [and] unfair,” he said.
Talking about the economic condition of the country, PM Shehbaz said in clear terms: “We will not default.”
He was adamant that even with the billions in upcoming foreign debt repayments, and the billions more now in flood damages, the country had averted default through the IMF deal and would still be able to service the rest of its foreign debt payments, which total around $22bn for the next year.
PM Shehbaz expressed the commitment to talk to everybody – including China and the Paris Club – about the possibility of foreign debt moratorium. “What we are asking for is fiscal space but not through the burden of more debt,” he said.