• Urges regional states to stand against devastation through sustainable programmes
• Appreciates CPEC’s ‘transformational impact’ in meeting with Xi
• Insists abandoning Afghanistan a ‘big mistake’
SAMARKAND: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday called upon regional countries to come up with Pakistan-specific programmes on climate change as the nation continues to reel from the devastating impact of the global natural phenomenon.
“This climatic injustice has befallen us despite the fact that our carbon emission is less than one per cent,” the prime minister said in his address to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s (SCO) Council of Heads of State meeting in Samarkand.
The prime minister’s call to the SCO members came in the wake of recent flash floods in Pakistan that wreaked havoc on the livelihood and infrastructure across the country, killing more than 1,500 people, including 400 children, and damaging millions of houses.
“I earnestly appeal to all of you that let the SCO stand up and take steps against this devastation through sustainable programmes,” he said.
In his speech, he also highlighted that abandoning Afghanistan this time around would be a “big mistake”.
On the floods, PM Sharif said stagnant water is causing a rise in waterborne diseases, such as malaria. He thanked the SCO members for extending their support during this time of need.
He said Pakistan would eventually overcome this crisis as he estimated the damage to be in the “billions of dollars”. The devastating floods “are most definitely climate change-induced”, he said, adding that cloud outbursts, unprecedented rains combined with hill torrents, all of this put together made Pakistan “look like a sea of water”.
“In view of the massive disaster, I would be very honest to urge this forum to extend assistance to Pakistan and chalk out plans regarding climate change for our future generations,” he said.
“We are going to stand on our own feet, but will this be the last time a country is going to fall victim to this devastation?” he asked as he appealed to the SCO to “build a wall” against the menace of climate change.
But that could only be achieved through a well-thought-out and sustainable plan, he said. “Our carbon emission is less than one per cent. Yet nature had this in store for us. Let’s make a plan to save our future generations,” he said.
Mr Sharif had arrived in the historic city of Samarkand on a two-day visit on Thursday. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif are among the officials part of the Pakistani delegation.
On the second day of his visit, the prime minister attended the close-format SCO heads’ meeting at the Congress Centre, where participants were welcomed by Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also attended.
SCO leaders endorse PM’s call
The presidents of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Iran and Mongolia on Friday seconded the proposal of Prime Minister Sharif for an action plan by the SCO for Pakistan to overcome the impact of climate change.
Uzbek President Mirziyoyev stressed that Mr Sharif’s proposal needed to be taken up at the level of the organisation and urged SCO member states to help Pakistan overcome the catastrophic damage caused by flash floods.
Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, and President of Mongolia Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh also fully endorsed the suggestion made by Mr Sharif.
Ignoring Afghanistan’ big mistake’
At the outset of his address, the premier deviated from the text of his speech as he talked about Afghanistan. “As you know Pakistan is a neighbouring country of Afghanistan, and peace in Afghanistan will ensure peace in Pakistan,” he said. “In other words, what is good for Afghanistan, is good for Pakistan and vice versa.”
He went on to say that the world would have to work together to support all “good initiatives” in Afghanistan. “Therefore, it will be a big mistake if we ignore Afghanistan this time around.”
It is Pakistan’s opinion that strengthening Afghanistan in the security and counterterrorism domain should run parallel to the SCO’s socio-economic support to the Afghan people, he said.
PM meets Xi, lauds CPEC’s impact
In his meeting with Mr Xi on the sidelines of the SCO, PM Sharif appreciated CPEC’s “transformational impact” on Pakistan’s socio-economic development and reaffirmed his government’s commitment to the multibillion-dollar project.
Both the leaders reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral relations and exchanged views on important regional and international issues of mutual interest. This was the prime minister’s first meeting with the Chinese president since assuming office in April.
In his welcoming remarks, the Chinese president described Mr Sharif as “a person of pragmatism and efficiency” and said he was a leader with “a longstanding commitment to China-Pakistan friendship”.
In a statement, the Chinese foreign ministry said Mr Xi pointed out during the meeting that China and Pakistan were close neighbours “linked by mountains and rivers and with a shared future”.
The two countries have all along stood with each other through thick and thin. No matter how the international situation evolves, China and Pakistan are always each other’s trustworthy strategic partners, he added.
The statement said China would work with Pakistan to advance its all-weather strategic cooperative partnership and accelerate the building of a closer community with a shared future between the two countries in the new era.
“It is important to expand cooperation in such areas as industry, agriculture, science, technology and social welfare to create new impetus for the CPEC’s development,” it said.
It added that China hopes Pakistan will provide “solid protection for the security of Chinese citizens and institutions in Pakistan as well as the lawful rights and interests of Chinese businesses”.
Meeting with Azeri, Kazakh presidents
Earlier on Friday, PM Sharif met Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev and discussed issues of bilateral interest. The meeting, held on the sidelines of SCO, focused on ways to strengthen the relationship between the two countries in diverse fields.
The premier underlined the importance of unlocking the existing potential in the relationship by boosting bilateral engagement in the fields of trade, investment, agriculture, information technology and tourism.
Meanwhile, Pakistan and Kazakhstan agreed for early finalisation of bilateral transit trade agreement and undertake expert-level studies to enhance cooperation in the energy sector.
Meeting on the SCO sidelines, Prime Minister Sharif and Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev emphasised facilitating people-to-people contacts through liberalised visa policies to boost trade, educational links, and investments.
Later, Prime Minister Shehbaz was seen off at the Samarkand airport by his Uzbek counterpart on the conclusion of his two-day visit. He concluded his trip by saying he was leaving Samarkand on a “satisfactory note”.
Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2022