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NEW YORK: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has made an urgent appeal to the international donors and rich countries for debt relief and special programmes for rehabilitation of flood-affected people of the country.

Pakistan has debt obligations in the next two months, Shehbaz Sharif said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in New York, adding that his government had just signed an agreement with the International Monetary Fund with “very tough conditionalities” that include taxes on petroleum and electricity.

“We have spoken to European leaders and other leaders to help us in the Paris Club to get us moratorium,” Sharif said in the interview, referring to the group of rich creditor nations. “Unless we get substantial relief how can the world expect from us to stand on our own feet? It is simply impossible.”

He noted a “yawning gap” between what Pakistan is asking for and what is available, warning that the nation is facing the imminent threat of epidemics and other dangers. “God forbid this happens, all hell will break,” Sharif said.

The prime minister said Pakistan needs additional funds to tackle the destruction wreaked by climate-induced catastrophic floods. He said it is impossible to revive our economy with this unprecedented destruction without substantial debt relief.

“We have spoken to European leaders and other leaders to help us in the Paris Club to get us moratorium,” Sharif said, referring to the group of rich creditor nations. “Unless we get substantial relief how can the world expect from us to stand on our own feet? It is simply impossible,” he added.

Shehbaz further said he has talked to Paris Club and the IMF in this regard. He said while the country is already facing an economic crunch, the unprecedented floods displaced millions of people, destroyed standing crops on millions of hectares besides destruction of thousands of houses. The Prime Minister said we now have to rehabilitate these millions of people, provide them safe housing, medical facilities, build climate-resilient infrastructure and restore agricultural lands destroyed by floods.

He said Pakistan will also have to import tons of wheat this year to meet its food requirements as millions of acres of agricultural land has been inundated by floods.

The Prime Minister said it is very unfortunate that Pakistan’s contribution in carbon emission is only 0.8 percent but it is among the ten most vulnerable countries to be affected from climate change. Referring to his interactions with world leaders on the sidelines of UN General Assembly session, Shehbaz Sharif said the whole international community has rendered us all-out support realizing the calamitous situation.

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