Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Friday that the world’s response to the flood devastation in Pakistan was “commendable” but added that it was far from meeting the country’s needs.
In an interview with Bloomberg TV, the premier outlined the challenges the country is facing due to catastrophic flood which have displaced more than 33 million people.
“We are among the top ten most vulnerable countries [to climate change],” he said, adding that around 1,500 people had died in the disastrous deluge.
Standing crops on four million acres have been washed away and thousands of houses have been damaged, PM Shehbaz said.
Highlighting the meetings he had held on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the premier said that he had spoken to several world leaders.
He especially mentioned the recent visit of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “He saw this calamity with his own eyes. He said: ‘Prime Minister, it is unbelievable’. He is a man who has been dedicating his life for humanitarian cause[s] for many years [and] he said he had never seen this kind of a climatic situation in his life.”
He went on to say that several world leaders had talked about the devastation in Pakistan. I am “very grateful” to US President Joe Biden for speaking about Pakistan’s plight, he said, adding that Turkiye’s Reccip Tayyip Erdogan and France’s Emmanuel Macron had also 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 time is running [out] and we are racing against time,” he said as he highlighted the health concerns among the displaced flood victims.
“What the world has done is commendable but it is far from meeting our needs. We can’t do it alone.”
The prime minister highlighted that Pakistan could not fund the relief and rehabilitation work by itself. Flood losses are estimated to be at $30 billion, he said.
“Unless the world comes out with billions of dollars for relief, rehabilitation, for building resilient infrastructure […] things will not come back to normal. And I need to put the economy back on [track] and put millions of people back in their homes.”
Talking about Pakistan’s debt obligations, PM Shehbaz said he had urged European leaders to fight the country’s case with the Paris Club for a moratorium.
“Unless we get substantial relief, how can the world expect us to stand on our own feet,” he asked. “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.”
He said that once Paris Clubs grants the moratorium, Pakistan would also speak to China seeking debt relief.
Commenting on his meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, he said that he had spoken to him about the availability of gas.
“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.”
Separately on Twitter, the premier said that in his interactions on the third day of the UNGA, there had been a “massive outpouring of sympathy and solidarity” with Pakistan for the flood devastation.
“The time has come for [the] world to translate this solidarity into concrete action to help Pakistan overcome this crisis,” he said.
Ahead of the interview, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb shared photographs of the prime minister with Bloomberg anchor Sherry Ahn.