A man carries his son, who was stranded in a flood-hit tourist area and was rescued by Pakistan Army, on his back as he disembarks from a helicopter in Saidu Sharif, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, on Tuesday.—AFP
A man carries his son, who was stranded in a flood-hit tourist area and was rescued by Pakistan Army, on his back as he disembarks from a helicopter in Saidu Sharif, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, on Tuesday.—AFP

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday extended an olive branch to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan, urging him to set aside his acrimony, for now, and work together for providing relief to fellow countrymen affected by unrelenting rains and floods.

Speaking to the international media at the PM House, the premier said he wished to ask Mr Khan to sit with him and move forward on relief efforts and bring the country out of this crisis. “Let’s put together a united effort, let’s move with unity of thought and action, let’s move in unison,” Mr Sharif said in an unprecedented appeal to his predecessor, at a time when both the government and the former ruling PTI are at daggers drawn following Mr Khan’s alleged threats to the police, judiciary and the army and the subsequent cases against him.

Besides this interaction, the PM had a busy Tuesday, as he reached out to several world leaders and expressed his gratitude for extending moral and financial aid to Pakistan to mitigate the sufferings of the flood-hit people

Denying apprehensions that the rescue effort may have got delayed because the media was preoccupied with the wrangling between politicians, Mr Sharif said he had on multiple occasions offered to form a ‘charter of economy’, but was not taken seriously by Mr Khan.

The PM also virtually ruled out the possibility of vegetable imports from India to overcome shortages caused by devastating floods, saying the two sides needed to talk about the human rights situation in India-held Kashmir. He added he was ready to sit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and talk over the issue.

Mr Sharif, however, said a committee had been constituted to explore the possibility of importing vegetables and other food items, revealing the government was in talks with Russia for import of wheat.

After the meeting, he also tweeted: “If it is us today, it can be somebody else tomorrow. Threat of climate change is real, potent and staring us in the face.”

PM thanks world leaders

In another tweet, PM Sharif said in line with his commitment, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was leading a humanitarian aid drive for the flood-affected people of Pakistan. “[Six] flights have landed so far; 2 more will arrive tomorrow. Train carrying relief goods left Ankara for Pakistan,” he tweeted.

He also expressed gratitude to the Chinese leadership and people. “This flood is like no other in terms of its intensity and spread. China has been there for us at the most difficult times & we greatly value its support,” the PM tweeted.

Earlier, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang expressed solidarity with the government and people of Pakistan over the human and financial loss in the recent floods that have devastated huge parts of Pakistan.

The first batch of relief aid from China containing 300 tents would reach Karachi on Wednesday (today) that the Chinese envoy would hand over to the Pakistani authorities.

PM-IMF: Later, the PM also stressed upon breaking the “economic straitjacket” through structural reforms. “Revival of IMF program, though critical to our economy, is not an end in itself. It offers a pathway to reorient our economy. We will have to work hard to make it self-sufficient. Pakistan must break out of economic straitjacket, which is only possible through structural reforms,” he tweeted.

PM-EU Council: While talking to PM Sharif over the phone, EU Council President Charles Michel offered his condolences over the loss of precious lives and the material damage as a result of devastating floods in Pakistan.

The PM thanked the EU president and appreciated their support of 2.15 million euros for flood-affected people in Pakistan.

Call to UAE ruler: Later, Mr Sharif also called Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, president of the UAE, and briefed him about the latest flood situation. The PM lauded the work being carried out by the Emirates Red Crescent and Khalifa bin Zayed Foundation in the flood-hit areas. Sheikh Mohamed expressed solidarity with the people of Pakistan and offered all-possible assistance to the affected people.

In another message, the PM thanked the UN for helping Pakistan in this time of need.

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2022

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