‘Act now’: Shehbaz tells SCO

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PM meets Xi; lauds CPEC’s transformational impact

Special Correspondent

SAMARKAND: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called on Friday for action against climate change that has caused cataclysmic floods in Pakistan as he said that “it’s time to act, act now”.

The prime minister was addressing the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s (SCO) Council of Heads of State (CHS), where he spoke about the climate catastrophe that has devastated Pakistan and killed hundreds.

The prime minister added that the floods — which have caused damages amounting to billions of dollars — make Pakistan look like “a sea of water”.

“The devastating floods in Pakistan are most definitely climate change-induced. It is the result of climate change, cloud outbursts, and unprecedented rains, combined with hill torrents coming down. All this put together makes Pakistan look like a sea of water,” the premier said.

Noting that he has “never seen this kind of devastation” before, the premier called on the organisation to “build a wall” against the menace of climate change.

The premier stressed that the SCO should make plans for the coming generations.

PM Shehbaz, along with leaders of the eight-member SCO, attended the close-format CHS at the Congress Centre, where he was welcomed by President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Uzbek President Mirziyoyev, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also attended the session.

Record monsoon rains in the south and southwest Pakistan and glacial melt in northern parts triggered the flooding that has impacted nearly 33 million people in the 220 million South Asian nation, sweeping away homes, crops, bridges, roads and livestock in damages estimated at $30 billion.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) reported 1,508 deaths including 536 children and 308 women.

Hundreds of thousands of people who have been displaced are in dire need of support in terms of food, shelter, clean drinking water, toilets, and medicines.

Many have been sleeping in the open by the side of elevated highways, with water-borne diseases spreading among people and affecting thousands.

The torrential monsoon, which submerged huge swathes of Pakistan, was a one in a hundred-year event likely made more intense by climate change, scientists said on Thursday.

‘Big mistake’

At the outset of his speech, the prime minister noted that it was imperative to ensure that peace prevailed in Afghanistan as peace in Kabul meant there would be peace in Islamabad.

The premier added that it would be a “big mistake” to ignore Afghanistan this time around as the Taliban-ruled nation battles terrorism and poverty.

“As you know Pakistan is a neighbouring country of Afghanistan, and peace in Afghanistan will ensure peace in Pakistan. In other words, what is good for Afghanistan, is good for Pakistan and vice versa,” he said.

The prime minister said that the global community should work to support “good initiatives” in the war-torn country.

“Fight this menace of extremism, separatism and terrorism and wipe it from the face of this earth,” the prime minister said, urging the SCO members to join hands for this goal.

The prime minister urged the international community to support efforts to build a sustainable Afghan economy and unfreeze its financial assets.

Gas talks with Putin

During a sideline meeting, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that pipeline gas supplies to Pakistan are possible, and that part of the necessary infrastructure is already in place.

“The prime minister reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to work closely with Russia to further expand and strengthen cooperation between the two countries across all areas of mutual benefit including food security, trade and investment, energy, defence and security,” a statement from PM’s Office said.

The two sides agreed to convene the next meeting of the Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC) in Islamabad at an early date, it said.

The long-delayed gas pipeline vital to the south Asian country’s economy — the Pakistan Stream gas project, also known as the North-South gas pipeline — is to be built in collaboration with Russian companies.

Meanwhilie, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday met Chinese President Xi Jinping here wherein he appreciated the transformational impact of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) on Pakistan’s socio-economic development.

During the bilateral meeting took place on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the Council of Heads of State of Shanghai Cooperation Organization here, the prime minister also reaffirmed his government’s commitment to high quality development of CPEC.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 2022.The interaction between the two leaders was marked by traditional warmth as well as exceptional mutual trust and understanding.

In his welcoming remarks, the Chinese president described Prime Minister Sharif as “a person of pragmatism and efficiency”. He also added that the prime minister was a leader with “a longstanding commitment to China-Pakistan friendship”.Noting the enduring nature of China-Pakistan bilateral ties, the prime minister underlined that our ‘All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership’ and Iron-brotherhood had withstood the test of time.He reaffirmed his personal resolve to take their bilateral relations to greater heights.