Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday commended the international response to the devastating floods which devastated large parts of but maintained that it was far from meeting the country’s needs.
In an interview with Bloomberg TV, the premier made an urgent appeal to international donors for debt relief and special programmes for the rehabilitation of flood victims, adding that Pakistan needed additional funds to tackle the devastation.
He further stated that it was impossible for the country to revive its economy, after unprecedented destruction, without substantial debt relief.
“Unless we get substantial relief, how can the world expect us to stand on our own feet,” he questioned. “It is simply impossible. The world has to stand by us.”
He also said that there was a “yawning gap” between what had been asked and what was available. “All hell will break loose.”
According to the premier, the recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan agreement had “tough” conditions which compelled the current government to impose taxes every month on electricity and petroleum. He added that he has talked to the Paris Club and the IMF in this regard.
PM Shehbaz added that he had urged European leaders to contest the country’s case with the Paris Club for a moratorium. He said that if the Paris Club granted the moratorium, Pakistan would speak to China seeking further debt relief.
Commenting on the devastation caused by the floods, the premier highlighted that millions across the country were displaced and millions of hectares of standing crops were destroyed in addition to the damage to thousands of houses.
He maintained that millions of flood-affected people would have to be rehabilitated, given safe housing and medical facilities, and agricultural lands must be restored.
Shehbaz also said that Pakistan would have to import wheat this year to meet its food requirements as millions of acres of agricultural land were inundated.
He lamented that the country’s contribution towards carbon emission was only 0.8% but it was among the top ten countries most vulnerable to climate change.
Regarding his interactions with world leaders on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session, Shehbaz said the international community had provided all-out support after recognising the calamitous situation.
He cited the recent visit of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to the flood-struck regions.
“He saw this calamity with his own eyes”, Shehbaz said, adding that the UNSG had called the sight ‘unbelievable’.
“He is a man who has dedicated his life to humanitarian causes for many years [and] he said he had never seen this kind of a climatic situation in his life”.
Shehbaz expressed gratitude to international leaders for talking about the destruction across the country. He added that he was very “grateful” to United States President Joe Biden for speaking about the flood situation and further said that Turkish President Reccip Tayyip Erdogan and France’s Emmanuel Macron had done the same.
“Many other leaders have discussed and openly said that Pakistan has never needed support and help more than ever before at this time. This shows the intentions and sincerity of global leaders, but I think it should come very fast because… and we are racing against time,” he said.
To a question about oil import from Russia, the premier said that he had talked to President Vladimir Putin regarding the matter, but nothing had been finalised.
“He has promised me that he will most definitely look into this. There is no commitment as yet. But we are also talking to them about buying wheat because there was a shortage of wheat last year and this year the land is not going to be ready for wheat sowing. So we’ll have to import wheat which will cost a fortune”, Shehbaz said.
Discussing the situation with India, PM Shehbaz said that Pakistan was ready to negotiate on all outstanding issues, with Kashmir on the top of the agenda, if India wanted to have a dialogue.
He said the two countries must realise that they are permanently neighbours and should channel abilities and resources for the good of the people.
Touching upon the political situation of Pakistan, PM Shehbaz said that all political parties must set their differences aside during this difficult time and work together to help flood victims.