Saturday, November 26

Pakistan suffers $30bn loss due to rains, floods: Bilawal

KARACHI: Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said that in Pakistan, 33 million people – one in seven people – have been affected by unprecedented rains/floods, and the cumulative losses and damages have been estimated at $30 billion.

“We are estimating the losses but the actual survey will take place when the inundated areas are cleared,” he said while addressing a press conference at CM House on Thursday. He was accompanied by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, Sindh PPP President Senator Nisar Khuhro, Minister Information Sharjeel Memon, Minister Irrigation Jam Khan Shoro, Saeed Ghani, Murtaza Wahab, Advisor to CM Rasool Bux Chandio and others.

Bilawal said that a great portion of the country was facing inundation as floods were still in progress because the water was coming down from Balochistan. He added that 50 percent of the total inundation had been cleared, but various towns and settlements in Sindh, Balochistan, Southern Punjab, and KPK were still under water. “Out KN Shah, Kotdiji, and various other towns and cities looking like the sea.

He said that it was not a riverine flood, but it was the result of a heavy downpour that displaced a population of 33 million people – equivalent to the population of the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. “Now, the stagnant water has started breaking out water-borne diseases, breeding mosquitoes and causing malaria, dengue, and such other issues,” he said and added the floods have damaged 10 percent of our health facilities infrastructure; therefore, the required services have also been affected but even then 3.8 million people have been provided medical treatment through special medical camps.

The chairman of PPP said that one-third of the country had been inundated but some politicians instead of coming over to help the affected people were playing politics, demanding elections, and trying to subvert the government’s efforts to rescue and rehabilitate the affected population.

The PPP Chief said that it was not only a massive displacement of the people but their standing crops over millions of acres have been washed away, therefore the country was facing multiples losses such as economic loss, loss of lives, and the cattle, therefore we have to take concrete measures to ensure food security.

He agreed to a question that the government has not reached to each and every affected person. “The catastrophe is so huge that if an affected person has been provided with a tent, but he has not been given mosquito net, if a person has been given ration he has not been given water and if he has got water his cattle cannot be given fodder,” he said and added still we were trying to provide relief goods to each and every flood-victim.

The chairman of PPP thanked Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif who has owned each and every person affected by floods. “He owns the entire Pakistan and feels the pain of each, and every person hit by the flood,” he said and added the prime minister visited all the flooded areas, met with the people, and supported them.

Bilawal Bhutto said that the international community was ready to help but deplored that some politicians were hatching conspiracies and giving irresponsible statements to affect the international support reaching the affected people in Pakistan. “But, this will not affect because we have reconstructed and restored the cordial relationship with all the countries which were vitiated by the PTI Chairman during his tenure as prime minister.,” he said.

The chairman said that he was not thinking about who will vote for us or not, but we have to help everyone to rehabilitate him,” he said and vowed to help every flood victim in the country. We will not give up but keep supporting people and inshallah will pass through this time of the test. We are assessing the damage.

The foreign minister thanked UN Secretary-General Mr. Antonio Guterres for his visit to the flooded areas of Pakistan to witness the magnitude of the catastrophe. “He visited the flooded areas, met with the people living in the camps, visited health facilities, and went to visit Mohenjo Daro, the World Heritage Site, that also been damaged by heavy downpours,” Mr. Bhutto Zardari said and added that Mr. Guterres admitted that he has never seen such a huge catastrophe in his life. The foreign minister also thanked US President, Mr. Biden, for his support for the affected people.

Mr. Bilawal did not agree with a newsman that the international community was not coming over to help the flood-affected people. “We are requesting the international community to help Pakistan to r rescue and rehabilitate the flood-affected people and they are voluntarily and willingly helping,” he said and added we would hold a donors’ conference for the reconstruction of damaged houses, irrigation system, overhauling of schools, hospitals, and road network.

He appreciated the provincial government for convincing the World Bank to come over and help reconstruct the collapsed houses at a cost of Rs110 billion. “The provincial government has taken the lead in reaching the donor agency and convincing them for the solid support,” he said. The chairman said that the issue of climate change needed to be addressed on an international level. “Our contribution of carbon emission is hardly 0.8 percent, but we faced the catastrophe squarely.

Bilawal Bhutto said that the Sindh government has done a commendable job by discharging the stagnant water speedily. “By end of November, we will be ready to cultivate the Rabi crop and Inshallah will help the small growers to reclaim their lands and make them fit for cultivation,” he vowed.

Q and A: To a question, Bilawal Bhutto said: “we might have not developed a model village or town in the province but the development we have carried out speaks volume of their quality and services. He quoted that the health facilities constructed and upgraded by the PPP government in every district and taluka headquarters and even villages (BHU plus) were providing comparatively better services.

“We have developed Thar, taped the black gold (coal) for power generation which is also working at its best capacity,” he said and added that the embankments constructed by the PPP government after the floods of 2010 have not been damaged during such heavy rain which brought water equivalent to the 250 Tarbela Dam but neither the Indus River broke nor the LBOD but its spinal drains developed breaches.

Mr. Bhutto said that there was still a need for more and more work, but nobody could deny the development and the services the provincial government has delivered. Replying to a question, Chairman PPP said that the affected people were not conceding to receiving aid or government support. “It is natural – when a person loses his crops, his house, his dear and near one(s) and his cattle the mere provision of ration bag, a tent, mosquito net, and water are nothing compared to his losses,” he said and added but it didn’t mean that the government has not done anything for them.

The foreign minister thanked President Asif Zardari for introducing Benazir Income Support Program under which Rs25,000 has been given to every affected woman. To a question, Bilawal Bhutto agreed with a reporter that he could not meet with his workers after taking over as a foreign minister. “The work I am doing to raise the voice for the flood victims on an international level was more important than meeting and interacting with party workers,” he said and added: “every worker assuming himself as Bilawal Bhutto Zardari must start helping people in need and strengthen his hands for working the poor, marginalized and helpless.”

To another question about Imran Khan, Bilawal Bhutto said that the Financial Times accused him of stealing the donations meant for his hospital but even then he termed others as thieves, he usurped the zakat funds of his hospital but still, he called others thieves and he received foreign funds but even then he said the others were thieves,” he said and added that he was himself the biggest thief in the political history of the country.

Replying to a question, the foreign minister said that our relationship with all the countries, including America has improved. “He [Imran Khan], during his tenure as prime minister, had damaged the relationship of Pakistan with various countries but we have engaged proactively with all the countries,” he said and added that the countries which were not ready to shake hands with us were now our friends.

To a question, the PPP chief said that the so-called nationalists were misguiding people. “We have not drowned anyone or submerged any area but it was the natural flow of water that inundated the areas falling in its natural way,” he said.

He said that when the catastrophe was so high that a great portion of the province came under water how a drain or dam could be constructed. “We cannot construct a moving or floating dam to transport it to the flooded areas,” he said and added that President Zardari had constructed the Darawat Dam which had also spilled over during these floods.

The PPP Chairman said that the money of the Sindh government [of Bahria Town] was stuck up in the Supreme Court. “We are trying to receive that money so that the LBOD, the RBOD, and the new drains could be fixed and constructed.

He said that the FP dyke was constructed six feet high after the floods of 2010 but even then it was overtopped because the flood water was so huge. Bilawal said that a mechanism would be developed to construct houses compatible with climate change. “Our slogan is Roti, Kapra aur Makan- therefore, we are bound to provide houses to those who lost them in the floods.

He said that the relationship with China was higher than Himalaya and sweeter than honey. Yet to another question, Mr. Bhutto said that his provincial government would not be able to withdraw a policeman and post him in Nazimabad for local government polling duty.

We opposed the IMK Ukraine war, Kabul, and things have changed drastically. Bilawal said that the overall conditions in the region such as the new government in Afghanistan which had not been recognized by any nation yet and the Ukraine war, we, Pakistan, could not afford to bear the burden of another Tsunami of refugees.