PM urges global leaders to act against climate change

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is addressing the 77th session of the UNGA in New York
Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif has urged the world leaders to come together and “act now” to deal with the issue of climate change.

In his address to the 77th session of United Nations General Assembly in New York on Friday, he said we expect some approximation of justice for the loss and damage by this calamity that has not been triggered by anything we have done.

The Prime Minister said due to this global challenge, our glaciers are melting fast, our forests are burning, and our heat waves have crossed 53 degree C, making us the hottest place on the planet.

He said during the recent calamity, for 40 days and 40 nights a biblical flood poured down on us, smashing centuries of weather records, challenging everything we knew about disaster, and how to manage it.

The Prime Minister said this calamity has pushed some 11 million people below the poverty line, while others will drift to cramped urban shelters, leaving little room for climate-smart rebuilding.

He said even today, huge swathes of the country are still under-water, submerged in an ocean of human suffering. In this ground zero of climate change, 33 million people, including women and children are now at high risk from health hazards, with 650,000 women giving birth in makeshift tarpaulins.

The Prime Minister said more than 1500 of my people have perished in the great flood, including over 400 children. He said early estimates suggest that more than 13000 kilometres of metaled roads have been damaged, over 370 bridges have been swept away, a million homes have been destroyed and another million damaged.

More than a million farm animals have been killed and four Million acres of crops have been washed away, stripping the people of their breadbasket, and damage of an unimaginable scale.

The Prime Minister said Pakistan has never seen a more stark and devastating example of the impact of Global Warming.  He said as the Secretary General Antonio Guterres so candidly said, hotspots like Pakistan fall in the ten most climate-vulnerable list of countries, but emit less than one percent of the greenhouse gasses that are burning our planet. It is therefore, entirely reasonable to expect some approximation of justice for this loss and damage, not to mention building back better with resilience.

The Prime Minister expressed profound gratitude to the UN SG Antonio Guterres for visiting Pakistan and spending time with climate refugees and assuring his support and assistance. He also thanked each and every one of the countries that have sent help, and their representatives to Pakistan to stand in solidarity with us in our most trying hour.

The Prime Minister said for now, we have mobilized all available resources towards the national relief effort, and repurposed all budget priorities including development funds, to the rescue and first-order needs of millions.

Cash transfers to the most affected, 4 million women heads of household, has begun weeks ago via our social security program, the Benazir Income Support Program, amounting to 70 billion rupees. But at this point, the gap between our urgent needs and available resources is amplified by the sheer, unprecedented scale of the disaster.

The Prime Minister said he is fully committed to fighting this battle for our survival, in the tents and trenches with my people, until we have rebuilt Pakistan to face the growing challenges of this century.

He said Pakistan's urgent priority right now is to ensure rapid economic growth and lift millions out of destitution and hunger. To enable any such policy momentum, Pakistan needs a stable external environment and we look for peace with all our neighbours, including India.

Talking about Kashmir issue, the Prime Minister said sustainable peace and stability in South Asia, however, remains contingent upon a just and lasting solution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

He said India's illegal and unilateral actions of 5th August 2019, to change the internationally recognized disputed status of Jammu and Kashmir and to alter the demographic structure of the occupied territory further undermined the prospects of peace and inflamed regional tensions.

India's relentless campaign of repression against Kashmiris has continued to grow in scale and intensity. In pursuit of this heinous goal New Delhi has ramped up its military deployments in occupied Jammu and Kashmir to 900,000 troops, thus making it the most militarized zone in the world.

In a classic settler-colonial project, India is seeking to turn the Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir into a Hindu-majority territory, through illegal demographic changes. Millions of fake domicile certificates have been issued to non-Kashmiris, Kashmiri land and properties are being seized and electoral districts have been Jerry Mandered. Over 2.5 million non-Kashmiri illegal voters fraudulently registered.

The Prime Minister said all this is in blatant violation of Security Council resolutions and international law, particularly the 4th Geneva Convention.

He said for our part, the Pakistani people have always stood by our Kashmiri brothers and sisters in complete solidarity, and will continue to do so until their right to self-determination is fully realized in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

The Prime Minister expressed hope that this world body and the Secretary-General will play their rightful role in urging India to implement the long pending UN resolutions.

Shedding light on Afghanistan’s issue, the Prime Minister said Afghanistan today presents a unique challenge as 30 million Afghans are left without a functional economy and banking system that allows ordinary Afghans to make a living to be able to build a better future.

He said Pakistan would also like to see an Afghanistan which is at peace with itself and the world, and which respects and nurtures all its citizens, without regard to gender, ethnicity and religion.

He said Pakistan is working to encourage respect for the rights of Afghan girls and women to education and work. Yet, at this point, isolating the Afghan Interim Government could aggravate the suffering of the Afghan people, who are already destitute.

The Prime Minister said constructive engagement and economic support are more likely to secure a positive response. He said a peaceful, prosperous and connected Afghanistan is in our collective interest. As a neighbor, Pakistan has a vital stake in peace and stability in Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister said we must avoid another civil war, rising terrorism, drug trafficking or new refugees which none of Afghanistan's neighbors are in a position to accommodate.

He also urged the international community to respond in a positive way to the UN Secretary-General's appeal for 4.2 billion dollars in humanitarian and economic assistance to Afghanistan, release Afghanistan's financial reserves, essential to revive its banking system.

About Pakistan’s sacrifices in the fight against terrorism, the Prime Minister said Pakistan strongly condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Terrorism does not have a religion. It is based on dogma, fuelled by poverty, deprivation, injustice and ignorance, and fanned by vested interests.

He said Pakistan is the principal victim of terrorism as over the last two decades, we have suffered more than 80,000 casualties and over 150 billion dollars in economic losses due to terrorist attacks.

The Prime Minister said our armed forces, with the support of our people, have broken the back of terrorism within Pakistan. Yet, we continue to suffer terrorist attacks from across our borders, sponsored and financed by our regional adversary. We are determined to defeat such cross-border terrorism.

Turning towards Islamophobia, the Prime Minister said it is a global phenomenon. Since 9/11, suspicion and fear of Muslims and discrimination against them have escalated to epidemic proportions.

He said the officially sponsored campaign of oppression against India's over 200 million Muslims is the worst manifestation of Islamophobia. They are subjected to discriminatory laws and policies, Hijab bans, attacks on mosques, and lynchings by Hindu mobs.  The Prime Minister said he is particularly concerned by the calls for genocide against India's Muslims by some extremist groups.

About Syrian and Yemen conflict, Shehbaz Sharif said Pakistan is deeply concerned by the numerous conflicts across the Middle East including in Syria and Yemen. He said we support all possible efforts to promote their peaceful resolution.

He said we call on Israel to put an immediate end to the blatant use of force and flagrant violations of human rights of the Palestinian people and the repeated desecration of the Holy Al Aqsa mosque.

The only just, comprehensive and lasting solution of the Palestinian question is the acceptance of a viable, independent and contiguous Palestinian State, with the pre-1967 borders, and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.

The Prime Minister said Security Council and the General Assembly must be empowered to play their respective roles under the UN Charter.

He said the Security Council must be expanded by adding 11 new non-permanent members to make it more representative, democratic, transparent, effective and accountable.

Adding new permanent members will paralyze the Council's decision-making, enlarge its representational deficit, and create new centres of privilege in violation of the principle of sovereign equality of Member States.

About Pakistan’s peace efforts in the region, the Prime Minister said Pakistan is a partner for peace and we will work with all those committed to the UN Charter's principles to restore the vision which created the United Nations and to equip this Organization with the capacity to preserve global peace and promote universal prosperity.

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