LAHORE: (14 October 22) “Caused by the climate crisis, Pakistan’s devastating floods have left a third of the country underwater and displaced 33 million people. But this year alone, the country will make $18 billion in debt repayments to foreign lenders. It’s outrageous that Pakistan which is least responsible for the climate crisis is facing such huge climate disasters, and is being forced into more debt to deal with the damage. The bilateral and multilateral creditors must drop Pakistan debt, leaving enough fiscal space for the rehabilitation of the flood-hit population and rebuild it economy.”
These views were expressed by the speakers and participants of a protest demonstration, organized in connection with Global Week of Action for Debt Cancellation, under the banner of WISE (Women in Struggle for Empowerment) and WMW (World March of Women), here Friday, in front of Lahore Press Club. The participants, mainly women were carrying banners and placards inscribed with slogans in favor of their demands.
Addressing the participants on this occasion, Bushra Khaliq, Executive Director WISE and focal person WMW Asia, said the debt crisis is draining resources of Pakistan just when it needs the most. Pakistan is least responsible for the climate crisis but facing the biggest costs. She implored: “It is not unreasonable to ask why countries with a negligible carbon footprint, like Pakistan, must pay for global warming catastrophes we had no part in creating.”, she added.
She was of the view that it’s time for Pakistan to demand debt cancellation from international creditors and freed up funds should be utilized to deal with the climate crisis and rehabilitation of flood-hit population, she demanded. The latest IMF agreement contains toxic conditions, causing all time high inflation due to the government’s decision to increase prices of electricity and fuel required under the deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), she opined.
Speaking on this occasion, Debt Justice campaigner and coordinator of Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debts, Abdul Khaliq said, “we must refuse to be held hostage by the IFIs, lenders and global economic rule-makers who are leading us down the path towards greater inequality and impoverishment. He called on the G20 countries, World Bank and IMF, the financial institutions which hold the purse strings for the indebted countries, to extend comprehensive debt relief to Pakistan.
“To be honest, it is a scandal that we are forced to choose between basic health care and education for our people, to be able to repay our old debt. Are we supposed to let our children die of climate-induced disasters, diseases that can be prevented and cured, refuse them education, let the people drink dirty water, just to repay this debt?” he questioned.
The participants demanded unconditional cancellation of Pakistan external debt payments by all lenders – bilateral, multilateral and private lenders – for at least the next four years as an immediate step and a clear program towards the unconditional cancellation of outstanding debts. They were of the view that use of resources freed from debt to address immediate relief and rehabilitation of flood-hit people.