ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday said he was “deeply obliged” to the Chinese government for helping flood-affected people in the South Asian country, increasing the aid volume to RMB644 million ($90 million).
Pakistan is reeling from the aftermath of catastrophic floods that have killed nearly 1,700 people since the onset of monsoon season in mid-June.
The deluges have affected more than 33 million people, washed away crops on millions of acres and cost an $30 billion in economic losses, with hundreds of thousands forced to stay in shelters and out in the open.
On Sunday, PM Sharif thanked the Chinese government, Communist Party of China (CPC), Red Cross Society of China and the People’s Liberation Army for the relief assistance.
“Our Chinese friends continue helping the flood victims in Pakistan,” the Pakistan premier said in a Twitter post. “Total volume of aid has increased from 400 million RMB to 644 million RMB.”
China is a key economic and political partner of Pakistan, pushing ahead with a $54 billion economic corridor that will build infrastructure and give Beijing an outlet to the Indian Ocean, although Chinese interests have also faced attacks from separatists.
Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also called on Pakistan to seek debt relief from China. The South Asian country owes about 30 percent of its external debt to Beijing.
Pakistan’s economy is facing a balance of payments crisis, a widening current account deficit, a slide in its currency to historic lows, and inflation crossing 27 percent.
PM Sharif last month appealed to the world and rich nations for immediate debt relief, saying what had been done was commendable, but “it’s far from meeting our needs.”
Sharif, who was in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, said Pakistan had taken up the debt relief issue with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and world leaders.