How G77 group of developing nations helped advance climate justice cause under Pakistan’s presidency

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, speaks during an interview at the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, DC, September 27, 2022. (Photo courtesy: AFP)
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Updated 28 December 2022

How G77 group of developing nations helped advance climate justice cause under Pakistan’s presidency

  • Pakistani foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari speaks to Arab News in New York, having just concluded his country’s G77 presidency
  • Pakistan, as 2022 chair of G77 group, has led the charge in the global fight for climate assistance to the developing world

NEW YORK CITY: Developing countries made history at the UN Climate Change Conference, COP27, in Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh in November when they secured a new “loss and damage” fund to support victims of climate disasters.

This key breakthrough, which encourages wealthy nations to provide financial assistance to developing countries grappling with the climate crisis, was hailed as a historic victory, crowning a decades-long struggle.

“This is a significant achievement,” Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Pakistan’s foreign minister, told Arab News in an exclusive interview in New York City, having just concluded his country’s G77 presidency and passed the torch to Cuba.

“This is something that climate activists have been struggling for for 30 years and I am proud of the fact that it was under Pakistan’s chairmanship of the G77 that we managed to achieve that aim.”

In this picture taken on September 27, 2022, internally displaced flood-affected people wade through a flooded area in Dadu district of Sindh province. (Photo courtesy: AFP)

Pakistan, as the 2022 char of the G77 group of 134 developing nations, has led the charge in the global fight for climate assistance to the developing world.

Many of these countries contribute relatively little to global greenhouse gas emissions, yet are themselves often the most vulnerable to climate catastrophes, such as rising sea levels, prolonged heat waves, desertification, ocean acidification, extreme weather, bush fires, loss of biodiversity, and crop failures.

Prior to COP27, Islamabad had succeeded in putting the issue of “loss and damage” on the summit agenda. This was no easy feat.

For decades, wealthy, industrialized countries, which produce the most greenhouse gas emissions, resisted the idea of such a fund, citing fears of continuous demands for compensation on the part of the low-income countries.

Their change of heart was likely influenced by Pakistan’s own unprecedented climate disaster.

Between June and October, intense monsoon rains resulted in catastrophic flooding, which many scientists and Pakistani officials believe was the result of man-made climate change.

Flood waters submerged one-third of the country, covering an area equivalent to the size of the UK. More than 1,400 people were killed and thousands more injured. Around 33 million people were directly impacted, including 6 million left destitute.

Internally displaced people gather to receive free food near their makeshift camp in the flood-hit Chachro of Sindh province on September 19, 2022. (Photo courtesy: AFP)

The floods destroyed 1.7 million homes, 12,000 km of road, 375 bridges, and 5 million acres of crops, costing Pakistan an estimated $40 billion in damages, while amply demonstrating why a loss and damage fund was so urgently needed.

Indeed, Pakistan is responsible for less than 1 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and yet, like many vulnerable nations, predominantly in the global south, appears to be carrying the burden of man-made climate change.

“Success is always the result of compromise,” Bhutto Zardari told Arab News.

“And I feel that we’ve managed to achieve some common ground through the language incorporated in loss and damage.



• The G77 is a coalition of 134 developing countries at the UN designed to promote its members’ collective economic interests and enhanced joint negotiating capacity.

• The “loss and damage” fund, under which wealthy nations provide financial support to those impacted by climate disasters, was secured at COP27 in Egypt in November.

• Pakistan, which suffered catastrophic flooding this year linked to man-made climate change, has led the charge on loss and damage during its G77 presidency.

“We need to look at this, not just as the developed world needing to give compensation or reparations to the developing world, but as a more practical approach, a more realistic approach, that we have to work together.

“The global south and the global north have to work together. The developing world and the developed world have to work together.

“Climate justice, climate catastrophe, knows no boundaries, does not care whether you’re rich or poor, whether you contributed to climate change much or you didn’t.

“It is devastating lives in Pakistan. It is devastating lives here in the US, where recently you had Hurricane Ian. In China, the heat wave. Drought and forest fires in South Africa. In Europe, floods.

“Wherever we look we see climate catastrophes catching up to us and we have to work together to address this issue.

“Obviously, there are different perspectives. The developing world feels that their carbon footprint is smaller, they haven’t contributed as much as the developed world has to the crisis.

“They haven’t benefited in the same way the developed world has from industrialization. And therefore we have to find the middle ground between the two to address this issue.”

Climate justice, climate catastrophe, knows no boundaries.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari

Pakistan is a founding member of the G77, which was established in 1964 and is the largest intergovernmental grouping of developing countries in the UN system. It provides a platform for developing nations to advocate their common economic interests within the international body.

Islamabad had assumed the presidency of the group — its third tenure since the group was founded — armed with a list of priorities it intended to address.

The UN has repeatedly stressed that global challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of climate change, and a lack of progress on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals are disproportionately falling on the shoulders of the world’s poorest.

The discrepancy in vaccination rates around the world alone was a shocking illustration of the widening gap between low-income and rich nations.

According to Our World in Data figures, as of July 2022, just 15.8 percent of people in low-income countries were fully vaccinated, compared with 55 percent in lower-middle income countries, 73.5 percent in high-income countries, and 78.7 percent in upper-middle income countries.

A flood-affected family eats a meal in a makeshift tent in Dera Allah Yar town of Jaffarabad district in Balochistan province on September 17, 2022. (Photo courtesy: AFP)

Closing these chronic gaps between rich and poor and recalibrating the strategic power dynamic has been the raison d’etre of the G77 since its creation.

“The agenda, or the aspiration of the G77, is exactly that. We represent the aspirations of the developing world,” said Bhutto Zardari. “It is one of the largest forums at the UN.

“To say at the end of our one-year term that we managed to fundamentally alter the dynamics between the developing world, the global south and the global north, would not be correct. There is a lot of work to be done.

“But I do believe we’ve managed to highlight some of these discrepancies, some of these predictions and particularly within the context of COP27, the success of G77 to get loss and damage onto its agenda goes a long way to address this discrepancy.”

This aerial photograph taken on September 5, 2022 shows flooded residential areas after heavy monsoon rains in Dera Allah Yar, Balochistan province. (Photo courtesy: AFP)

Beyond the climate crisis, the pandemic, and regional conflicts, developing nations have also borne the brunt of inflationary pressures resulting from the war in Ukraine, which have caused food and fuel prices to skyrocket over the course of the past year.

Combined, these challenges have hampered the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals — a collection of 17 interlinked objectives formulated in 2015 to serve as a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet to be achieved by 2030.

“I believe as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and a whole host of other factors, including the Ukraine war, we have not been able to make the necessary progress on SDGs,” said Bhutto Zardari.

“If we do want to achieve that goal then it requires quite an ambitious reform agenda that would endorse many of the suggestions of Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, who also calls for reforms of international financial institutions in order for us to be able to deliver on SDGs.”

To overcome these concurrent crises, restore economies, achieve the SDGs, and address the “unequal and unjust” international economic system, Bhutto Zardari used his G77 presidency handover speech on Dec. 15 to call for emergency measures and structural changes.

These include mobilizing urgent humanitarian support for more than 50 countries in economic distress, providing emergency food supplies through the UN to the 250 million people who are food insecure, boosting food production and supplies to moderate prices, and facilitating farmers’ access to seeds, fertilizers and finance.

Bhutto Zardari also urged the international community to ensure developing countries had sufficient access to energy, to mobilize $1 trillion per year to invest in sustainable infrastructure, and for “systemic and structural reforms” to address the inequalities of the international financial system.

“We will continue our services but we need more donations and more funds so that we can scale up our services,” said Ayaz Hussain, Health specialist, UNICEF. (Supplied)

Loss and damage was a rare point of policy convergence in South Asia and a demonstration of developing nations wielding collective strength when they have common cause. “I think we were very successful in creating that consensus,” Bhutto Zardari told Arab News.

“Time and time again, the G77 has come together to take unanimous decisions, consensus decisions. Every meeting that we chaired here has had an outcome document.

“I don’t think it would have been possible to insist on loss and damage being part of the agenda or ultimately agreeing to get the loss and damage fund in financial arrangements… without consensus and unity across the board at G77.

“In the past year, we managed to sustain that consensus and it’s incredibly encouraging.”

He added: “The art of diplomacy, of politics, is being able to find mutual ground. I am a strong believer. I think the politics domestically in my country and internationally tend to be politics of division.

“I tend to believe that there’s far more that unites us than divides us. And we should seek common ground, areas in which we can work together, rather than find areas where we disagree.”


Incessant heavy rains in northwestern Pakistan leave 4 dead, 17 injured

Updated 13 min 34 sec ago

Incessant heavy rains in northwestern Pakistan leave 4 dead, 17 injured

  • Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s disaster management authority says people died due to roof collapse
  • Heavy rains were also reported in Balochistan province where a woman from Harnai lost her life

PESHAWAR: Four people lost their lives while over a dozen were injured in rain-related incidents across Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province in the last 24 hours, a senior official at the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) said on Saturday.

Monsoon rains and floods killed more than 1,700 people and submerged about a third of Pakistan’s territory last year while affecting the lives of 33 million people. According to official statistics, 309 individuals were killed in KP and 600,000 were displaced in several districts of the province.

“We have witnessed intermittent downpour during the last five days in KP, but continuous rains with greater intensity have taken place in the last 24 hours that left four people dead and 17 others wounded,” PDMA spokesperson Taimur Ali told Arab News on Saturday.

He said that women and children were among those hospitalized after suffering injuries as the roofs of their houses collapsed due to heavy rain.
Ali added that six houses had been damaged across three districts of the province.

He informed that most reports of casualties and damages were arriving from Mardan, South Waziristan, Peshawar, and Khyber districts.

Bilal Faizi, the spokesperson for Rescue 1122, said continuous rain over the last two days had prompted officials of his department to stay on high alert and take precautionary measures across the province.

“As per unofficial reports,” he continued, “six persons have died and more than 20 injured due to persistent rain showers in different parts of the province.”
Faizi said that those who were injured would get free medical treatment at district hospitals.

“The local administration will also provide relief items to families whose houses were damaged in the rains,” he added.

Apart from KP, heavy rains were also reported in different districts of the southwestern Balochistan province. According to PDMA officials, a woman belonging to district Harnai lost her life after the roof of her house collapsed due to the heavy downpour.

(With additional reporting by Saadullah Akhtar from Quetta.)

Balochistan administration to launch green bus transport service in Quetta

Updated 26 March 2023

Balochistan administration to launch green bus transport service in Quetta

  • The project will initially be implemented with eight buses to facilitate commuters in different parts of the city
  • Local transporters have announced to boycott the service, asking officials to first discuss all the routes with them

QUETTA: The provincial administration of Balochistan has decided to launch the first-ever green bus project in Quetta to provide quality transport services to citizens, said a senior official on Saturday.

Other provinces in the country have already implemented similar plans by introducing metro bus services in places like Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, and Multan.

Quetta has had an old public transport system for the last three decades, with an estimated 550 carriers to serve a population of about three million. 

However, there are only seven routes for the buses, making it difficult for people to commute to different locations in the city without hassle.

“The government purchased eight fleet buses in 2021 to start the green bus service in Quetta,” said the provincial transport secretary, Dr. Muhammad Aslam Baloch, while speaking to Arab News. “However, the project could not be implemented due to some reasons. Now, we have decided to resume it under a public-private partnership program.”

“Four buses will cover the transport routes from the Railway Station to Sariab Custom, and four will commute from the Railway Station to Baleli, an outskirt neighborhood in Quetta,” he continued. “We have decided to start the service within the next three months.”

This picture shows old local buses parked in one of the neighborhoods of Quetta city in Pakistan on March 25, 2023. (AN Photo)

Local transporters have announced to boycott the green bus service in Quetta, criticizing the government for not first discussing the routes with local bus owners who, they said, were already running their buses in many areas of the city.

“We will not allow the implementation of the green bus service project in Quetta since the government should first decide all the routes [with us],” Saeed Ahmed Takari, information secretary of All Muttahida Bus Association Quetta, told Arab News. “The government should take the local bus association into confidence.”

Syed Ali Shah, a senior Quetta-based journalist, said the provincial authorities had allocated funds for the green bus service in Quetta two years ago while planning to procure 100 buses. Due to the congested streets of the city, however, the transport department only purchased eight vehicles.

“The government decided to start the project with eight buses,” he said. “But due to a lack of proper policy, the plan was not implemented and the buses were parked inside a government warehouse where they were also damaged due to bad weather conditions.”

Fahad Bin Waseem, a 30-year-old Quetta resident, said the project should be “implemented immediately” and the old buses must also be discarded.

“While the government is planning to start the project with eight buses, it should expand the new transport network across Quetta,” he told Arab News. 

“The provincial transport department should establish new bus stations in the city and separate roads for the green buses.”

Ex-PM Khan promises ‘largest rally’ in Lahore as authorities block roads with shipping containers

Updated 25 March 2023

Ex-PM Khan promises ‘largest rally’ in Lahore as authorities block roads with shipping containers

  • A senior leader of Khan’s party asks local authorities to remove the barriers since a court had allowed the PTI rally
  • PTI’s former National Assembly speaker urges international community to take notice of rights violations in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan has vowed to hold the “largest rally” in the eastern city of Lahore on Saturday, as local authorities have placed shipping containers on different roads leading to the venue of his public gathering.

Khan, who was ousted from power in a parliamentary no-confidence vote last year in April, recently decided to kick off his election campaign by holding a rally at the historic Minar-e-Pakistan monument in Lahore.

However, he had to postpone the plan when a police contingent tried to arrest him after a district court in Islamabad issued his non-bailable arrest warrants in a graft case.

Subsequently, there were clashes outside his Lahore residence between the police and supporters of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party that lasted for about two days before a Pakistani court asked the law enforcement officials to stand down.

As the former prime minister prepared to hold the public rally on Saturday, his party officials complained that the police had arrested hundreds of activists in overnight raids to sabotage the power show.

“We will not back off under any circumstances,” Dawn newspaper quoted Khan as saying after he went to an anti-terrorism court in Lahore to get interim bail in three terrorism cases. “I am saying today that they [the government] will see the largest rally at Minar-e-Pakistan in the country’s history.”

Meanwhile, local news channels widely reported that authorities in Lahore had set up shipping containers at the entry and exit points of the city to prevent PTI activists from nearby areas from attending the rally.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi, a top leader of Khan’s political faction, said there was no justification for the authorities to block the roads since a court had allowed his party to hold the gathering.

“The police and the administration are requested to remove these containers,” he said while speaking to the media.

Qureshi maintained such measures were not only undemocratic but also indicated that the government was afraid of Khan.

Pakistan’s Geo News also reported that the former speaker of the National Assembly and a leader of Khan’s party, Asad Qaiser, sent a letter to various global forums, in which he asked the international community to take notice of the present political situation in his country.

Qaiser said grave human rights violations were carried out in Pakistan against the supporters of the PTI party, adding that many of these people had been “abducted.”

He also maintained that “fake criminal complaints” had been filed against Khan to get him disqualified from politics.

However, according to the caretaker Punjab information minister, Amir Mir, the authorities are not preventing anyone from going to the venue of the PTI rally.

He told Geo News that the shipping containers on the road were only meant to ensure the protection of people.

Man arrested in Pakistan’s northwest for helping Afghan nationals illegally obtain citizenship documents

Updated 25 March 2023

Man arrested in Pakistan’s northwest for helping Afghan nationals illegally obtain citizenship documents

  • Pakistan has more than 1.4 million registered Afghans who were forced to flee their homes due to decades of conflict
  • Federal Investigation Agency also arrested Afghan nationals and a Pakistani official in Bannu earlier this week

PESHAWAR: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) arrested an individual on Friday who is suspected of helping Afghan nationals illegally obtain Pakistan’s citizenship documents in the district of Bannu in the northwestern part of the country.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, Pakistan has more than 1.4 million registered Afghans who were forced to flee their homes due to decades of war and factional fighting in their country. A significant number of Afghan nationals also entered Pakistan in recent months after the Taliban seized control of the neighboring state in August 2021.

While the government initially offered amnesty to those Afghans who came to Pakistan on valid visas but prolonged their stay after their travel permits expired, the official relaxation ended last December before the authorities started cracking down on all illegal migrants and launched the deportation process.

“The accused was involved in providing computerized national identity cards [CNICs], domiciles, passports and other documents to Afghan nationals,” Abdul Ghafoor, a public relations official with the FIA, told Arab News. “The culprit took thousands of rupees from Afghan citizens before facilitating them to get these documents.”

The agency also issued a press release on March 22, stating that its Bannu circle had arrested an Afghan national, Muhammad Rauf, from a local hotel where he was staying to obtain Pakistan’s CNIC and passport.

The official statement said the accused had paid Rs650,000 ($2,296) to an agent to obtain these documents, adding that the token numbers of the passport and CNIC were also recovered from him.

After further investigation, the FIA arrested the assistant director of the passport office in Bannu, Siddique Akbar, who was accused of illegally providing Pakistan’s citizenship documents to Afghans.

Ghafoor confirmed that the authorities were probing the matter, adding they would soon share more information with the media.

Meanwhile, Saif Ullah Muhib Kakakhel, an advocate at the Peshawar High Court, told Arab News that cases related to Afghan nationals trying to obtain illegal documents in Pakistan were on the rise.

“Sometimes, officials are involved in such cases who take huge amounts of bribes to provide Pakistani documents to Afghans,” he said.

Kakakhel maintained most Afghan nationals even faced issues while opening a bank account or securing a legal property, though several legal ways were available to them.

“It is easy to stop the illegal ways of obtaining documents by immigrants,” he added, “though it will require making legal ways easier and more accessible by the government.”

Pakistan court sentences man to death for blasphemy

Updated 25 March 2023

Pakistan court sentences man to death for blasphemy

  • Blasphemy is hugely sensitive issue in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where even unproven allegations can stir mobs, violence
  • Human rights group says in the last 20 years, 774 Muslims, 760 minority members were accused of blasphemy in country

PESHAWAR: An anti-terrorism court in northwest Pakistan has convicted and sentenced a Muslim man to death after he was accused of posting blasphemous content in a WhatsApp group.

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where even unproven allegations can stir mobs and violence.

Syed Muhammad Zeeshan was convicted under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act and Anti-Terrorist Act by the court in Peshawar on Friday.

“Accused Syed Muhammad Zeeshan, son of Syed Zakaullah in custody has been convicted and sentenced after being found guilty,” the court order said, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

Zeeshan, who is a resident of the northwest city of Mardan, was also fined 1.2 million rupees ($4,300) and handed a total of 23 years imprisonment.

He has the right to appeal.

The case arose after Muhammad Saeed, a resident of Talagang in Punjab province filed an application with the Federal Investigation Agency two years ago accusing Zeeshan of posting blasphemous content in a WhatsApp group, Saeed’s counsel Ibrar Hussain told AFP.

The “FIA had confiscated Zeeshan’s cell phone and its forensic examination proved him guilty,” he said.

While Pakistan’s laws prohibiting blasphemy can carry a potential death sentence, so far it has never been enforced for the crime.

Although many cases involve Muslims accusing fellow Muslims, rights activists have warned that religious minorities — particularly Christians — are often caught in the crossfire, with blasphemy charges used to settle personal scores.

According to the National Commission of Justice and Peace, a human rights and legal aid group in Pakistan, 774 Muslims and 760 members of various minority religious groups were accused of blasphemy in the last 20 years.