Bilawal lashes out at Imran Khan for ruining economy and foreign policy
Appreciates $66m US assistance for flood relief: Says magnitude of disaster necessitated sustained and long-term cooperation: Emphasizes Pakistan is victim of climate change despite being minimally responsible for greenhouse emissions: Says Pakistan needs much more as initial estimates indicate damages of more than $30b: Says helping flood victims top priority: Observes demand for pre-elections is like playing with the lives of flood victims: Besides floods, our agenda is to improve relations with US: Says Pakistan faces shortage of food as floods have destroyed our crops: Urges world to stay connected with Afghanistan: Pakistan needs fresh talks with IMF given huge financial toll from recent floods: Warns US against pushing his country to choose between China and West
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The foreign minister expressed appreciation for US assistance for flood relief saying that magnitude of the disaster necessitated sustained and long-term cooperation.
He shared with Chairman Menendez impact of the devastation caused by floods. He underscored that it was a compound crisis with humanitarian, health, food security and economic dimensions. He urged Chairman Menendez’s personal leadership in mobilising support in the US Congress, which historically had stood by the people of Pakistan during such natural disasters.
FM Bilawal said that the flood crisis provided an opportunity to Pakistan to build back better, greener and resilient infrastructure. Given the huge investment required, Pakistan viewed the US government and private sector as important partners in this task.
Chairman Menendez conveyed his condolences and sympathies to the people and the government of Pakistan on the devastation caused by the floods. He assured of his support in enabling Pakistan to overcome this challenge. He said the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Pakistan and the US was an important milestone. Both countries had achieved a lot working together.
Chairman Menendez praised the Pakistani diaspora’s role in strengthening Pakistan-US ties. He underscored the importance of Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s regular engagement with the foreign minister.
Both sides also discussed peace and stability in the region including Afghanistan, Indian repression in IIOJK and its illegal actions of August 5, 2019.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also met Senator James Risch, Ranking Member Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in Washington on Wednesday.
“Pakistan needs much more to recover from the biblical floods” the foreign minister stressed in his meeting with Senator Risch.
He highlighted the ongoing, devastating impact of the floods in Pakistan which resulted in more than one third of the country being submerged in water. The floods affected 33 million people, more than the population of Australia, he stressed.
Appreciating the $66.1 million US assistance, he highlighted ‘Pakistan needs much more as initial estimates indicate damages of more than $30 billion.’
Bilawal underscored the challenges being faced by the affected population, including impending health catastrophes, particularly outbreaks of malaria, dengue and water-borne diseases in the affected population, food insecurity and more.
The foreign minister emphasized Pakistan was a victim of climate change despite being minimally responsible for greenhouse emissions. Pakistan was committed to building back better and greener climate resilient infrastructure but the scale of the calamity necessitated international support. The foreign minister said the US Congress had historically stood by Pakistan in natural disasters and urged continuing cooperation.
Referring to ‘people in waist deep waters searching for signs of their devastated towns’, the Senator empathised with the foreign minister on the devastation wreaked by the floods.
Both sides also discussed regional issues, including the need for a peaceful, stable Afghanistan.
The foreign minister invited the senator to visit Pakistan to witness first-hand the impact of the floods.
Helping flood victims top priority
Meanwhile, addressing a press conference in Washington on Thursday, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said that his purpose for visiting the US was to help the flood victims in Pakistan. He also vowed that they would require a lot of work for the flood victims.
"At this critical time, the demand for pre-elections is like playing with the lives of the flood victims," he told the press.
"The top priority is to aid flood victims; politics is a distant second. Nothing that we do for the flood evacuees is adequate."
He said the United Nations Secretary-General put the flood issue on top of the agenda during the UN session. He expressed gratitude to the world community for the help they offered to Pakistan for the flood victims.
The minister said, "We have not reached the stage of reconstruction and rebuilding. We are still in the phase of relief and rescue."
"You must have witnessed improvement in the country's foreign affairs during the six months of our government. Also, you must witness a clear difference between today's Pakistan and what it was six months ago," Bilawal noted.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war have triggered price hike around the globe, he said.
Both the countries are expected to make further progress in trade, agriculture, health and other sectors, he said.
He suggested that India and Pakistan work together on climate change issues. The world would suffer if there is no agreement on climate change issues, he warned.
Bilawal said the ten biggest countries affected by climate change will have to raise their voices together. He proposed to the world to work together as it is the only solution to the climate change problem.
He also criticised PTI Chairman Imran Khan, saying the PTI leader has damaged the foreign policy and economy of the country. However, Pakistan is back on the right track, he said, thanking God.
"It would be unfair if Asad Majid [Pakistan's ex-envoy to the US when the cipher was delivered] was penalised for a wrong committed by Imran Khan," he said. Asad Majid is fulfilling his responsibilities, he said.
World to stay connected with Afghanistan
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has opposed the freezing of Afghanistan’s assets and urged the world to stay connected with the Taliban-led Kabul government.
Addressing a press conference at the Pakistani Consulate in Washington, FM Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that he has presented a clear stand of Pakistan to the United States of America (USA) regarding the freezing of Afghanistan’s assets.
“Today, the assets of Afghanistan have been confiscated, tomorrow it could be some other country or Pakistan,” Bilawal said.
Pakistan needs fresh talks with IMF
Meanwhile, talking to Bloomberg News, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said his country needed to revisit an International Monetary Fund package signed in August given the huge financial toll from recent floods, and he warned the US against pushing his country to choose between China and the West.
He said that the damage from the floods is expected to exceed $30 billion and his government will need fresh talks with the IMF on the $1.1 billion loan. He reiterated his country’s need for debt relief and warned of a looming food crisis caused by the widespread flooding as well as the war in Ukraine.
"With the floods, all those figures, everything that that arrangement is based upon was washed away,” Bilawal said in an interview at Bloomberg’s Washington bureau. "We will have to have a more detailed conversation with the fund and other international financial institutions about how we’re going to approach this.”
Bilawal said more than four million acres of crops had been destroyed and that disruptions to the wheat-planting season will worsen the plight of Pakistanis. More than 1,500 were killed and millions displaced by the floods.
He said that rich nations responsible for global warming should help because Pakistan contributes 0.8% of the global carbon footprint but is the eighth-most climate-stressed country.
Bilawal said Pakistan -- which spent years building coal-fired power plants with tens of billions of dollars in Chinese funding -- now hopes to focus on cleaner energy. He also suggested Pakistan’s choices on renewables would depend on whether industrialized nations want to get involved or leave the country to pursue cheaper options.
As an example, he cited how after the global financial crisis, Pakistan was "in the naughty books” with the US and had to pursue infrastructure funding from China.
"We aspire to not only get out of this crisis, but we’d like to be able to be in a position to build back in a better manner, in a more climate-resilient manner, in a greener manner,” he said. "Either we do that or, if can’t get the financing together, we build back in a dirtier manner, in a cheaper manner, in a quicker manner.”
Given those pressing needs, Bilawal warned that countries like Pakistan can’t be forced to choose between the US and China.
"You can’t expect the entire world to decouple from anyone that you have this difference of opinion with,” he said. "We can’t live with these extreme sort of exclusionary politics, whether it’s domestically or internationally.”
Bilawal suggested there was little hope Pakistan’s relatively new government could make amends with Narendra Modi’s ruling party in India, whose administration he characterized as not a "rational, reasonable neighbor who would reciprocate” any overtures for better ties.
He also repeated calls for the US to unfreeze billions of dollars of Afghan central bank funds following the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, noting that "it does set a bad precedent” and would worsen human rights in Afghanistan rather than pressure the government to improve its record.