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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 385, 27 September 2022

Climate Change and more: Three takeaways from PM Shehbaz Sharif’s UNGA address



PM Shehbaz Sharif emphasis on climate change, Kashmir and islamophobia during his UNGA address

Abigail Miriam Fernandez

On 23 September, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif while addressing the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly urged the world to undo the ‘climate injustice’ done to countries like Pakistan that hardly contribute to global warming but face its worst consequences. He said, “Why are my people paying the price of such high global warming through no fault of their own?” adding, “Nature has unleashed her fury on Pakistan without looking at our carbon footprint, which is next to nothing. Our actions did not contribute to this.” He added, “The undeniable and inconvenient truth is that this calamity has not been triggered by anything we have done,” warning, “Now, we live through an unprecedented monster monsoon. It is literally a monsoon on steroids, as the UN secretary-general described it most befittingly. One thing is very clear: what happened in Pakistan will not stay in Pakistan.”

Further, he emphasized on the impact of climate change on the health and wealth of Pakistan stating that the dual costs of global inaction and climate injustice were having a crippling effect on the government and the people. He said, “So my real worry, is about the next stage of this challenge. When the cameras leave, and the story just shifts away to conflicts like the Ukraine, my question is, will we be left alone, to cope with a crisis we did not create?” He added that the future was “dimmed by new fragility, lost homes, decimated livelihoods, deluged croplands, permanent food insecurity and exposure to uncertain futures.”

He concluded, “It is high time we took a pause from the preoccupations of the 20th century to return to the challenges of the 21st. The entire definition of national security has changed today, and unless the leaders of the world come together to act now behind minimum agreed agenda, there will be no earth to fight wars over. Nature will be fighting back, and for that humanity is no match.”

Calls for peace in South Asia
Apart from the emphasis on climate change, PM Shehbaz Sharif spoke about the regional situation. He claimed that Pakistan was seeking peace with all its neighbours, including India. He said, “We look for peace with all our neighbours, including India. Sustainable peace and stability in South Asia, however, remains contingent upon a just and lasting solution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.” He alleged that India’s decision to abrogate Article 370 undermined the prospects of peace and inflamed regional tensions. He claimed that India should take credible steps to create enabling environment for constructive engagement. Concerning Afghanistan, he urged the international community to respond to the UN secretary-general’s appeal for USD 4.2 billion in humanitarian and economic assistance to Afghanistan and the release of Afghan’s frozen assets. Additionally, he raised concerns over the threat from regional terrorist groups, namely ISIL-K and TTP, Al-Qaida, ETIM and IMU. He said, “They all need to be dealt with comprehensively, with the support and cooperation of the Interim Afghan authorities.”

Calls for action against Islamophobia
Lastly, PM Shehbaz Sharif called on the UN to take ‘concrete measures’ against Islamophobia, saying it was a “global phenomenon.” He concluded, “We must restore peace in Europe, avoid a war in Asia and resolve festering conflicts across the world. We must revive the vision which created the United Nations, a vision which is often blurred by national interests and hegemonic designs.”

Three takeaways from PM Shehbaz Sharif’s UNGA address
First, Pakistan’s emphasis on the impact of climate change. The leaders of Pakistan have become vocal about the devastating impacts of climate change at all international forums. While former prime minister Imran Khan has advocated for this cause in the past, PM Shehbaz Sharif has not taken the lead in this effort. However, what is clear from PM Shehbaz Sharif’s address is that Pakistan cannot tackle the effects of climate change on its own. Thus, it is significant for countries like Pakistan to not only shed light on the impact of climate change to hold nations responsible for heavy pollution accountable but also to gather international assistance to tackle the issue.

Second, rallying for the ‘Kashmir cause.’ Pakistan has raised the Kashmir dispute, however, in the recent past, the rallying has become a part of all diplomatic and international engagements. The Kashmir dispute has been raised in several international forums and organizations by Pakistan with a stance of bringing regional peace. Following his predecessors, PM Shehbaz Sharif’s mention of the issue during his UNGA address reveals Pakistan’s agenda of raising the issue at all levels.

Third, spearheading the end of Islamophobia. Since 2019, Pakistan has taken substantial efforts to emphasise the issues of Islamophobia. The culmination of this was in March of 2022 when Pakistan presented a resolution in the UN General Assembly that called for designating 15 March as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia. The resolution was adopted by consensus by the 193-member world body. Apart from this, Pakistan has raised the issue at several international forums to be seen as the proponent of the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief. PM Shehbaz Sharif’s address highlights the efforts Pakistan wishes to take when it comes to Islamophobia.

References
Anwar Iqbal, “PM Shehbaz urges world to undo ‘climate injustice’,” Dawn, 24 September 2022
Anwar Iqbal, “Pakistan plays key role in adoption of UN resolution on combating Islamophobia,” Dawn, 17 March 2022
UNGA speech,” Dawn, 25 September 2022
Tasks for the PM,” The News International, 25 September 2022

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