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LAHORE: Political economist Dr Fahd Ali has suggested that the government should renegotiate its agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as the country is currently in dire need of fiscal space to carry out rehabilitation and reconstruction work after the ongoing devastating floods.

“The defence expenditure, an elephant in the room, should also be openly debated at the same time,” he further proposed while speaking at a public meeting organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) here on Friday to underline the country’s current major problems and prepare a line of action in the light of recommendations of civil society members.

The participants while putting forward a charter of demands said that an immediate concern is the devastation caused by the ongoing floods that are a result not only of the climate crisis but also of the state’s failure to carry out sustainable, pro-poor and pro-people development. Additionally, they said that the constant political confrontation continues to undermine democratic values at the expense of ordinary citizens’ needs, while decades of elite capture, hyper-securitization and short-sighted economic planning have pushed daily-wage and fixed-income workers to the brink of survival.

The members demanded that a national action plan be conceived and implemented jointly by the federal and provincial governments to rescue and provide relief to all those affected by the floods as well as to rehabilitate their lives and livelihoods.

They expressed that the role of the local governments is crucial in this regard: they must be strengthened and given the technical and financial resources and autonomy needed to carry out relief work, climate change-resilient reconstruction and disaster preparedness. At the same time, the state must revise its policies towards civil society: the ousting of international NGOs has only worsened the current crisis.

They further said that Pakistan’s climate crisis is also a political and demanded that the state should give all the provinces a fair hearing and address the legitimate grievances of all ethnicities, particularly Balochistan, Sindh, former FATA and the Seraiki, if it expects to put forward a united front to counter the climate emergency.

“It is equally critical that women be represented equally across all institutional and government tiers. Once general elections take place, they must be held in a free and fair manner that ensures a representative government with the political will to protect the interests of the working classes and marginalized groups,” they further said.

Senior journalist Imtiaz Alam said the civil society must develop a charter of demands encompassing the protection of all the fundamental rights.

Human rights defender Tanveer Jehan said that disaster preparedness strategies should include mobile medical units and systems to trace families that had been divided by disasters.

Senior advocate Abid Saqi said that a meaningful political movement involving labour, women and students was required to resolve the ongoing crises.

HRCP chairperson Hina Jilani said it was critical for civil society to work in unison against a growing political narrative that did not believe in rule-based order and that valued demagoguery and populism. She said the commission would use its convening power to bring together civil society onto one platform, but said it was also critical for civil society ‘to prove not only that it is relevant but also that it is indispensable’ in the current crisis.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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