PM Shehbaz to highlight Pakistan's flood havoc during UNGA summit, bilateral meets

Pakistan PM Sharif is among the world leaders attending the UNGA session who has been invited by President Biden to a reception

September 20, 2022 06:31 pm | Updated 07:13 pm IST - Islamabad

Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shehbaz Sharif. File

Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shehbaz Sharif. File | Photo Credit: Reuters

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on September 20 said that he would apprise the world about his country's "massive human tragedy" in the wake of the devastating floods, as he arrived in New York for the high-level U.N. General Assembly session.

Since the start of the unprecedented monsoon rains and flooding in Pakistan, 1,545 people have died and thousands more have been injured. The floods have affected 33 million people, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. Swelling waters have swept away villages, roads and bridges, and at one point inundated a third of Pakistan's territory.

Also Read | It is the people of Pakistan who are suffering

Mr. Sharif took to social media after reaching New York to participate in the high-level 77th session of the U.N. General Assembly and address it on September 23 as the leader of Pakistan.

He is set to meet several world leaders on the sidelines of the UNGA session.

"Reached NY a few hours ago to tell Pakistan's story to the world, a story of deep anguish & pain arising out of a massive human tragedy caused by floods. In my address at UNGA & bilateral meetings, I will present Pakistan's case on issues that call for the world's immediate attention," he tweeted.

On the sidelines of the summit, Mr. Sharif would hold bilateral talks with several world leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Iran's President Seyed Ibrahim Raisi and attend the reception of the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Though he will not have any bilateral meeting with U.S. President Biden, Prime Minister Sharif will interact with him informally during a reception, The Express Tribune newspaper reported.

Mr. Sharif is among the world leaders attending the UNGA session who has been invited by President Biden to a reception, a Foreign Office official told the daily.

A video on the floods in Pakistan

This will be the first interaction between the U.S. President and the Pakistani Prime Minister. Since being elected as the U.S. President, Mr. Biden has not spoken to either former Prime Minister Imran Khan or his successor Mr. Sharif.

The meeting, despite being informal will be significant given the fact that the Biden administration during Imran Khan's government largely ignored Pakistan, the daily said.

Since the change of the government, there has been a flurry of engagements between the two countries.

A senior adviser of the U.S. Secretary of State recently visited Pakistan while the Biden administration also approved the $450 million sale of F-16 equipment to Pakistan.

After the UNGA session, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will visit Washington on an official visit and meet Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

Also Read | Pakistan floods impacted nearly 16 million children: U.N.

This will be his second meeting with the Secretary of State in a few months as he earlier met him in New York at the sidelines of the Food Security Summit.

Prime Minister Sharif's meeting with the French President would be significant given the fact that ties between Islamabad and Paris had remained strained over the past few years.

After the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, the French President wanted to speak to then prime minister Mr. Khan to thank Pakistan for its help in evacuation efforts but he refused to give time for the call. Mr. Macron never approached Mr. Khan again.

France is an important country in the European Union and has close ties with India. One Pakistani diplomat who served in Paris told The Express Tribune that because of the country’s flawed approach, Pakistan had little or no penetration in the key western country.

The likely meeting between the Prime Minister and the French President may break the ice in the relationship.

Also read | Warming, other factors worsened Pakistan floods, study finds

France is not only an important member of the EU but also is a key player in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which is set to decide Pakistan’s fate in October in Paris.

The FATF onsite team visited Pakistan earlier this month to verify the steps taken by the country to implement the financial watchdog’s plan of action.

The successful outcome of the visit would pave the way for Pakistan to exit the grey list.

Other engagements of the Prime Minister include meetings with Malaysian Prime Minister Imail Sabri Yaaqob, UNGA president, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, the U.N. secretary-general and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai. He will also hold meetings with the prime ministers of China, Japan and Luxembourg.

He will also participate in the Global Food Security Summit and also meet IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and World Bank President David Mills.

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