Reconstruction of flood-hit areas in Pakistan ‘top priority’: Guterres

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Bilawal for urgent operationalisation of ‘loss and damage’ fund

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday said that “resilient reconstruction” of flood-hit areas in Pakistan was his “top priority” as he reaffirmed “full support” of the UN for ongoing humanitarian work in the country.

The UNSG made these remarks during his meeting with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on the sidelines of the UN’s ministerial conference of G-77 and China being held in New York.

Bilawal met Guterres and thanked him for his support to Pakistan after this year’s devastating floods. He also appreciated the UNSG as he will be co-hosting the International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan in Geneva on January 9, 2023.

During the meeting, the FM sought the UN’s continued cooperation to secure the participation of key donors, development institutions and the private sector in the conference to encourage them to support Pakistan’s comprehensive plan and specific project proposals.

The secretary-general also appreciated the country’s timely initiative to convene a special ministerial conference of the G-77 and China to work towards overcoming the challenges facing developing countries.

Meanwhile, in his speech at the ministerial conference of G-77 and China, FM Bilawal called for urgent operationalisation of the “loss and damage” fund.

In a series of tweets, Bilawal said that at the meeting, he highlighted that developing countries are suffering disproportionately from multiple crises.

Earlier, Foreign Min ister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari took India to task on Thursday for calling Pakistan “the epicentre of terrorism”, saying India “demonises the people of Pakistan” to hide its Hindu-supremacist ideas.

The FM’s comments came minutes after his Indian counterpart had accused Pakistan of harbouring terrorists, including Osama bin Laden.

Earlier, the UN Security Council had adopted a statement warning the world of the increasing danger of terrorism.

Speaking with journalists, the Indian FM Subrahmanyam Jaishankar had reminisced on a decade-old statement by the then US secretary of state Hillary Clinton when she was visiting Pakistan, saying “if you keep snakes in your backyard, you can’t expect them to bite only your neighbours, eventually they will bite the people who keep them in the backyard”.

“Pakistan is not good at taking good advice,” Jaishankar had said. “The world today sees them as the epicentre of terrorism,” he had added.

In his speech at the Security Council, the Indian minister had said that “India faced the horrors of cross-border terrorism long before the world took serious note of it” and has “fought terrorism resolutely, bravely and with a zero-tolerance approach”.

Bilawal hit back at the comments saying “I am the foreign minister of Pakistan and Pakistan’s foreign minister is a victim of terrorism as the son of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shehbaz Sharif when he was chief minister of Punjab, his home minister was assassinated by a terrorist. Political parties, civil society, the average people in Pakistan across the board have been the victims of perpetrators of terrorism.”

“We have lost far more lives to terrorism than India has,” he added questioning why Pakistan would ever want to perpetuate terrorism and make “our own people suffer”.

“Unfortunately, India has been playing in that space […] where it is very easy to say ‘Muslim’ and ‘terrorist’ together and get the world to agree and they very skilfully blur this line where people like myself are associated with terrorists rather than those that have been and to this day are fighting terrorism,” he continued.

The FM then went on to say that New Delhi perpetuated this narrative not just against India but also Muslims