September 1, 2022| Media Briefing|
[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]
Assalam-o-Alaikum. Thank you for joining us for the Weekly Briefing.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The colossal scale of devastation across various parts of the country, brought about by the unprecedented climate catastrophe, has affected more than 33 million people. Continuing loss of lives and livelihoods, and massive damage to property and infrastructure, are indicative of this evolving humanitarian situation we are faced with. After Sindh and Balochistan, you have seen the destruction caused in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, AJK and Gilgit Baltistan in recent days.
Over 1,100 people including over 350 children have lost their lives, more than 1,600 people have been injured, over a million houses have been partially or fully damaged or destroyed, entire villages have been wiped out, over 735,000 livestock have perished and over 2 million acres of crops have been lost, besides severe damage to communications infrastructure.
The Government of Pakistan has mounted coordinated rescue and relief operations mobilizing all possible resources and capacities. This is a national effort in which everyone is contributing from individual Pakistanis from all spheres of life, to businesses, civil society and humanitarian organizations, besides civil and military administrations. Overseas Pakistanis are also contributing to this effort in a big way.
The sheer scale of the calamity has, however, stretched our resources and capacities to the limit, thus necessitating support from the international community. And we have already seen an outpouring of that support and solidarity, with a large number of our friends and partners stepping forward with assistance to buttress the Government led relief efforts.
To further raise global awareness and mobilize support, on 30th August, Pakistan together with the United Nations, launched the Flash Appeal “2022 Pakistan Floods Response Plan (FRP)” simultaneously from Islamabad and Geneva.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari addressed the launch event, followed by a video message from the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and statements from Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, Mr. Ahsan Iqbal, UN Resident Coordinator in Pakistan Julien Harneis, UN High Commissioner for Refugees and IFRC. Chairman NDMA Lt. Gen. Akhtar Nawaz also briefed the participants on the situation in the aftermath of the floods.
The FRP focuses on the needs of the most affected people, with life-saving response activities amounting to US$ 160.3 million covering food security, assistance for agriculture and livestock, shelter and non-food items, nutrition programs, primary health services, protection, water and sanitation, women’s health, and education support, as well as shelter for displaced people.
The Flash Appeal launch was well attended by Member States both in Islamabad and Geneva, Heads of UN agencies in Pakistan, representatives of international organizations, among others. Participants offered condolences and expressions of solidarity, and assured continued support for Pakistan.
Here two points merit highlighting:
First, what we are passing through is a climate-induced calamity. These are no ordinary monsoons, as the UNSG termed them “monsoons on steroid”. There are totally anomalous cycles of torrential monsoon coupled with other extreme weather events including record temperatures and forest fires in Pakistan. As one of the lowest contributors to the global carbon footprint yet amongst the most vulnerable, Pakistan has borne the brunt of climate shocks in recent years. As the Foreign Minister said, Pakistan has become the ground zero of the consequences of global warming. The international community, particularly those historically responsible for climate change, must step up and share the burden of these losses in the spirit of solidarity.
Second, while we are in the relief phase right now, there will be this important transition to the reconstruction and rehabilitation phase, which, given the mega scale of this disaster, will require continued, sustained and substantial support of the international community.
All our efforts will be focused towards that objective. As you would have followed, yesterday, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari accompanied by diplomats and representatives of international organizations visited a number of flood hit areas.
The Prime Minister has also been visiting the affected areas, personally overseeing the relief efforts.
We have closely engaged the diplomatic corps here in Islamabad, and are mobilizing efforts through proactive outreach through our Missions abroad.
During the previous week, leaders from across the world expressed their sympathies for the people affected by the floods and showed solidarity and support for Pakistan in this hour of need. The Presidents of Turkey, Iran and the United Arab Emirates as well as President of the EU Council called Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also received telephone calls from the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of the French Republic Catherine Colonna.
Let me also inform you that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres will be visiting Pakistan on 9-10 September. This will be an important visit. Secretary General will be here to express solidarity and international community’s support for Pakistan at this difficult time.
Here I would like to highlight that till last night, we have received flood relief goods through 21 flights notably from Turkey, UAE and China. There are trains from Turkey also. These air and across land bridges are expected to continue in the coming days and weeks.
A large number of countries and international organizations have pledged support and are extending cash or in-kind assistance including Australia, Azerbaijan, Canada, China, EU, France, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, New Zealand, Norway, Palestine, Qatar, ROK, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Turkiye, UAE, United Kingdom, the United States, Uzbekistan, and this is not an exhaustive list, along with various international organizations including World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other UN Agencies.
We are grateful for this timely and much needed support.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In complete cognizance of the need to invest in a sustainable future, to avoid falling prey to climate change induced natural calamities, and mindful of Pakistan’s extreme vulnerability to climate change, Pakistan remains committed to a sustainable, green agenda.
In accordance with these objectives, Pakistan has signed the Green Framework Engagement Agreement with Denmark yesterday in Copenhagen. The Green Framework Engagement will mark the first step in creating stronger collaboration in areas such as climate change mitigation and adaptation, and a just and sustainable green transition. A Joint Action Plan will be finalized between the two countries containing specific activities of collaboration.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We remain deeply concerned on the grave human rights and humanitarian situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), where the Indian occupation forces have martyred another 6 Kashmiri youth including a 23-year-old engineering student in fake encounters in Baramulla and Shopian areas.
Today marks the first martyrdom anniversary of the iconic Kashmiri Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani. He was a personification of sheer courage and grit, and the face of Kasmiri people’s valiant struggle to achieve right to self-determination as enshrined in numerous UNSC Resolutions. Lovingly called ‘Baba-e-Huriyet’ by his compatriots; he breathed his last in a long-drawn illegal Indian custody on 1 September 2021.
The Indian Charge d’Affaires in Islamabad was called to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs today and a strong demarche was made over India’s continued apathy towards the iconic Hurriyat leader’s right to a burial in accordance with his will and the wishes of his family.
Pakistan’s deep regret was conveyed over Government of India’s persisting intransigence that has denied Syed Ali Geelani’s mortal remains a dignified burial in the “Cemetery of Martyrs” as per his desire. More ominously, Kashmiris are not even allowed to pay respects to the revered leader at the graveyard in Hyderpora, Srinagar where he was hurriedly buried last year, as you remember by the Indian occupation forces in the absence of his family and followers.
We believe no amount of Indian brutality, apathy and incredible absence of morality can dampen either the spirit of resistance of the Kashmiris in IIOJK or the fond remembrance of its people for their visionary leaders of the like of Syed Ali Geelani.
May his legacy continue to inspire those carrying his mission forward to bring an end to the illegal Indian occupation of Jammu and Kashmir.
I thank you and am ready to take your questions.
Question: I want to ask that two-third of Pakistan is under water and there is severe shortage of tents and many other things. Are you expecting that relief goods will arrive earlier so that they can be handed over to flood affectees?
Secondly, there is also severe shortage of food items such as vegetables and fruits, are we looking for options to import these food items from Afghanistan, Iran or India.
Thirdly, Mr. Imran Khan has raised funds for flood affectees from outside Pakistan. Do you have any information on the total amount which has been collected and how much of that amount has reached Pakistan till now? Is there any chance that our Prime Minister and Foreign Minister will call upon overseas Pakistanis to request for their support in flood relief assistance? (Shakeel Kalyana, Daily Relation News)
Answer: I think you rightly noted and you would have followed the discussion the other day, and I think you would have followed the briefings that have taken place ever since this disaster has set in. There are daily monitoring meetings and briefings at the NDMA which are chaired by the chairman of the Relief Coordination Committee. One of the key requirements that is there is about shelter and tents, and full effort has been mobilized in that regard. I recall around 200,000 tents have so far been distributed, but the demand is much higher. You will have followed, the Foreign Minister standing here the other day and he noted that this was a significant requirement. So that is why we have requested friends in the international community, and you will see that many of these assistance consignments that are coming in – from China from Turkey, UAE and others, the shelter/tents component is a significant part of it. So we are trying to address that. We have also mobilized tent manufacturing to its full capacity in Pakistan so that we can procure the tents locally as well.
On your question about vegetables and other items, let me tell you that we are in touch with countries in the broader neighborhood to facilitate import of these commodities as early as possible. But I think you would appreciate that right now the main focus is on the flood-hit areas where you know that vast lands have been inundated and there are urgent requirements of food and shelter. So that remains the first responsibility of the Federal and Provincial Governments.
With regard to your last comment, I would submit that when we say that this is a national disaster and the entire nation is mobilized to respond to this disaster, so, we expect that, you know, corresponding to that responsibility, all of us, myself, you, everyone in this room, and all Pakistanis, all political parties, they are together shouldering the responsibility towards the people who have been affected by this calamity. So, I think that should remain a key objective and focus.
Question: An Indian court has ordered to release two young individuals from Azad Kashmir, namely Asmad Ali and Khayam Maqsood who are 14 and 16 years old respectively for being juveniles. Pakistan High Commission in Delhi has also been contacted in this regard. Can you please share update regarding these cases?
Secondly, on 21 August another individual Asawat Hussain has been arrested from Nowshehra sector and his videos have also been played on Indian media portraying that there were terrorists who have been arrested along with him. He is also mentally ill. Can you share any update regarding him as well? (Syed Faisal Ali, Daily State Views)
Answer: On your question about the two individuals. First of all, as I always say that, you know on such cases the relevant mission keeps a close tab and they remain in touch with the authorities concerned. So in this case, the Mission has been pursuing Asmad Ali’s case with the Indian side since the time of his detention in November 2021. His name appears on the list of prisoners shared by the Indian side on 1 July 2022. The Mission has also obtained copy of an order from the Juvenile Justice Board of Poonch for release of Asmad Ali and his repatriation. His case has been referred to Ministry of Interior to expedite confirmation/verification of his national status so that repatriation can be processed further. The case of Khayam Maqsood, who is imprisoned since August 2021 has also been consistently taken up by the Mission with Indian side. The nationality of Mr. Khayam has been confirmed and according to the Juvenile Justice Board of Poonch, his release and repatriation has already been ordered. The Mission has taken up the matter with Indian Ministry of External Affairs seeking his immediate release and repatriation. Their reply is awaited. We will also ascertain exact details of the third person you have named just now and we will share it with you.
Question: I want to know that up till now how many countries have provided flood relief assistance to Pakistan, if it is in the form of cash assistance what the total amount is and can we get details that which countries have given it?
Secondly, have we received the amount which pledged earlier or we are yet to receive that amount? (Shahzad Hassan Mirza, Daily Media)
Answer: Thank you. I think I named in my opening remarks many of the countries, and apart from that there are many international organizations, UN agencies, and on non-governmental basis there are many humanitarian organizations which are mobilizing support. It is important to understand that the assistance that is being pledged or offered in various categories utilize different modes for disbursements. For example, you can see that some would be direct cash/financial support including for the government; others could be through the flash appeal, and there could be announcements that will be utilized and disbursed through various UN agencies and other organizations. This information is being gathered and compiled on a daily basis. We continue to receive new pledges and commitments and all of this is being consolidated. We will be sharing the picture describing as to how much, and what kind of pledges – financial and in-kind assistance are there and how they are going to be utilized. But the important thing to note is that the response is very encouraging and we are receiving new commitments every day.
Question: Firstly, last week we saw a statement from the Afghan interim Defense Minister which the foreign office responded to and said that it was in the absence of evidence and it was regrettable. There was no absolute denial or confirmation of the comment or the allegation made by the Afghan interim Defense Minister. As the spokesperson or as the Foreign Office of Pakistan do you deny the allegation that has been made?
Secondly, just a short while back the Ministry of Finance has issued a notification allowing the imports of vegetables precisely tomatoes and onions in the country. Now, yesterday we saw a tweet from the finance minister and I quote, “more than one international agency has approached the government to allow them to bring food items from India through the land border. The government will take the decision to allow imports or not based on supply shortage position after consulting its coalition partners and key stakeholders”. Now my question is, is there any consideration or a proposal to allow land border trade or imports from India? Thank you. (Anas Mallick, Capital TV)
Answer: On your first question. I will refer you to the same statement that you were referring to, that we had issued. It is a very clear statement. And further clarification that you desire is not even required because it mentioned very clearly what we had to say on that issue.
On your second question or observation, I think a part of it I replied already responding to an earlier question. As I said, we are in touch with countries in the broader neighborhood to facilitate import of those commodities as early as possible. And as regards India currently there is no such thing under consideration.
Question: The other day you were also online, with the UN spokesperson for a briefing, and it was announced that the UN Secretary General Mr. Antonio Guterres would be visiting Pakistan. So, officially what are the dates of his visit to Pakistan? Other than visiting flood affected areas, will he be holding political talks at the Foreign Ministry and any other engagements with the Pakistani political leadership, as far as UN Secretary General’s visit is concerned? Please share some details. Thank you. (Mateen Haider, G News)
Answer: Yes, as I said and you have followed already there is an announcement made by the UN spokesperson. Subject to any further changes, at the moment, the Secretary General is expected to be here on 9th (September) early morning and he will have a busy schedule in Islamabad that day including calls-on and meetings with the leadership, including the PM and the Foreign Minister, besides other engagements. On the next day, we are preparing for his visits to the flood affected areas. So there are things to be finalized and as soon as these details are shaped in the form of a final program, we will share more information with you. Important thing is that this is going to be a very significant visit especially after the launch of the flash appeal. And the Secretary-General has had a long association and great respect for Pakistan in his previous role as the High Commissioner for Refugees, so he knows well the kind of generosity that Pakistan has shown over the decades, not only on refugees, but also a very constructive role in the international domain, so he is very appreciative of that and whenever the Secretary General visits Pakistan, we have discussions with him on a range of issues including Pakistan’s cooperation with the UN.
Question:A statement was issued on behalf of Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari that he collected 1 kharab 30 arab rupees in one hour. Does Foreign Office own this statement by Foreign Minister?
Secondly, a post is being shared on social media about your blood relation with Allama Khadim Rizvi. Can you give clarification on this? (Anwar Abbas, BOL News)
Answer: I have provided you a context about figures, different kinds of contributions that are being announced and how they are going to be utilized. So, please keep that in mind.
On your second observation, I don’t need to say anything but for your personal information, obviously, there is no blood or any other relation.
Question: A female British MP has criticized in a tweet that rich and powerful countries are 99% responsible and Pakistan is only 1% responsible for the recent disastrous floods in Pakistan. How does Pakistan see this and does it hold these countries responsible?
Secondly, we talk a lot about hybrid war. For the last few years we see that in Pakistan glaciers are melting fast, new lakes are being formed and there are events of cloud bursts? Are these natural disasters real? Are they results of some kind of weapons being used to destroy countries or is it just some conspiracy theory? (Khawaja Nayyer Iqbal, Media Today)
Answer: Some people thought that climate change was a conspiracy theory but things are proving right the scientists and experts. This is not a conspiracy, this is a reality and we need to be mindful. As far as hybrid wars are concerned, we are always mindful of all its complexities and intricacies. We are always on the watch, to preserve and protect our interests. Please be rest assured about that.
Regarding your first question, I think this is no surprise that this statement by the British MP that you mentioned, that 99% of responsibility is on the other countries and only 1% on Pakistan. If you can relate it, that’s what the figures also say. Pakistan contributes less than 1% to the global carbon footprint. So maybe it is in that context. In my opening remarks, I also said that countries that bear the largest responsibility historically toward this phenomenon of climate change, they have to come forward to help Pakistan along with other countries and we will really push this discussion in the context of the climate change discourse. I think we have to take the loss and damage part of the discussion to a more tangible phase than it is right now.
Question: Have we done any need assessment on the number of tents, mosquito nets and other items which are required in flood affected areas? This is very important because it will help a lot in protecting people from disease outbreaks. Can you share some data regarding how many tents, mosquito nets and other items have been received up till now?
Secondly, do we have sufficient equipments for water drainage in the flood affected areas? Is any such equipment part of the humanitarian aid expected to arrive, which can help in water drainage?
Thirdly, news of thousands of expected glacial bursts are being shared on social media regularly. Have we made any assessment of vulnerable glaciers in Pakistan, and that how many are on the verge of melting? Can share some data on this please? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)
Answer: On that last one, these figures are not given just off hand, and I think these are general remarks about the glacial melting and outburst, which is a reality and you know, that this year we had three degrees over the average temperatures during the summer and this is also one of the contributing factors in this entire phenomenon. We can get related information for you from the relevant Ministry. On the material and items that are required, yes, there are close to exact estimates and these have been shared with the members of the international community. As I said, shelter and tents – they are most required, over a million the Foreign Minister mentioned the other day are required for Sindh alone, and this is a huge number as regards the provision of tents. So, full effort is being deployed. As I said, around 200,000 tents have been distributed already. Of the assistance that is coming in – shelter and tents are part of it, so are mosquito nets, which are also being procured locally. And the water pumps as well, they are also important. On this last one, let me note that in the assistance that has been offered by France recently, there is a particular focus on the provision of high capacity pumps so I think that will be a very timely assistance coming in from France.
Question: Two issues are being highlighted, one of drinking water in flood affected areas and second regarding medicines to avoid outbreak of diseases. Have we requested anyone for medical assistance? (Sardar Amir Hussain, Royal News)
Answer: There is a complete list of medicine that is required. It has been shared with partners, and we are receiving the assistance according to our requirements.
Question: Cricket matches between Pakistan and India are always very interesting. Often we see that some dignitaries also go to watch these matches. This time we also saw that sons of two important personalities from Pakistan and India were sitting together in the stadium while watching Pakistan India cricket match? Can we assume from this that relations between Pakistan and India are improving?
Secondly, Captain of Indian cricket team has said that they are ready to play with Pakistan if Pakistan and India sit together and discuss this. Is there any discussion going on at diplomatic level regarding Pakistan India cricket matches? (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)
Answer: Sometimes I really don’t understand these questions. Whatever happens on the cricket field, who is sitting with whom in the stadium, I have nothing to comment on that. As regards playing cricket with India, you would recall that it was India that was refusing to play bilateral series or whatever. So it’s not Pakistan. I am not aware of any discussion. But Pakistan has always been open and was of the view that sport should not be mixed with other issues. So, I think if they are ready to play that would be a welcome thing.
Question:A number of INGOs have requested to lift bans on their activities and allow them to take part in relief efforts in the flood affected areas. Is there any plan by the Government of Pakistan to do so? (Naveed Siddiqui, Dawn)
Answer: I don’t know which specific INGOs you’re referring to, but you know that the INGOs in Pakistan work under a policy framework in which they are registered, and having registered they are allowed to carry out their activities in the designated domains. So there are many INGOs who operate in the humanitarian domain and Pakistan has always done its best to facilitate the INGOs for their presence in Pakistan and to enable them to perform their work according to their mandate. Thank you.
Last modified: September 1, 2022
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