Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has told a visiting U.S. diplomat in Islamabad that the world must intensify its fight against climate change as the country grapples with an environmental and humanitarian crisis amid record flooding.
Meanwhile, in the southern Sindh Province and other hard-hit regions, Pakistanis were still fleeing their homes or battling to bolster dykes and erect other makeshift measures on September 8 as floodwaters continued to threaten major swaths of the country.
Sharif's office said he made the plea to the State Department's Derek Chollet, with Pakistan and the international community still mobilized to help tens of millions of Pakistanis affected by monsoon flooding that is thought to have submerged as much as a third of the country.
Pakistani authorities confirmed hours earlier that the catastrophic flooding from torrential rains and glacial melting since mid-June has killed at least 1,355 people and affected 33 million more.
Islamabad said Chollet "affirmed that the United States would stand by Pakistan in the wake of this immense challenge, extend vital support, and help affected people rebuild their lives and communities."
Chollet told reporters that he discussed in meetings with Sharif and other officials how Washington could assist in Pakistan's rescue and relief operations, adding that there will soon be more announcements of U.S. aid.
U.S. President Joe Biden entered office in 2021 vowing to put America back into the lead to fight manmade climate change, and his signature legislation in the 19 months since then was a $750 billion bill that included the highest-ever funding for climate action.
The United States last week pledged $30 million in humanitarian and other Pakistani flood relief via its U.S. Agency for International Development, making it the single largest outside donor.
During his visit, Chollet also met with Pakistan's powerful army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, according to a military statement, as the Biden administration approved the resumption of a $450 million sale to Pakistan of equipment for F-16 aircraft maintenance.
Chollet called the sale, which had been on hold for years, a “step forward" in security relations between Washington and Islamabad. Pakistan had requested that U.S. continue the sale of aircraft equipment to sustain the F-16s that form the backbone of Pakistan's air defense.
“The proposed sale does not include any new capabilities, weapons, or munitions,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency of the Pentagon said in a separate statement.
The sale will improve Pakistan’s “ability to support counterterrorism operations,” the statement said, adding that it will “not alter the basic military balance in the region.”
Pakistan's response to the flooding, which highlighted the disproportionate effect of climate change on impoverished populations, will remain in focus this week.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has described the devastation to Pakistan as a result of "epochal levels of rain and flooding" and urged international aid to help the country cope with the disaster.
Guterres arrived in Pakistan early on September 9 on a two-day visit aimed at expressing solidarity with Pakistan's government. His visit will include a tour of flood-ravaged areas from the air.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on September 7 of the widespread risk of disease due to the disruption of Pakistan's health system from the flooding.
In his appeal last week, the UN secretary-general urged the world: "Let's stop sleepwalking toward the destruction of our planet by climate change," adding, "Today, it's Pakistan. Tomorrow, it could be your country."