Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday thanked his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi for offering help in flood relief efforts in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and said closer collaboration in disaster management should be a part of their agenda of peace and development in the region.
Over 200 people were killed and 400 injured in floods and rain-related incidents in Pakistan, mainly in Punjab province, with four days of torrential downpour leaving a trail of death and devastation. The showers which started last week continued through the weekend in Punjab and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), leading to floods in Chenab river inundating Gujrat, Gujranwala and Sialkot districts.
“I gratefully acknowledge your letter of 7 September, conveying deep sympathies for the people affected in Pakistan by unprecedented monsoon rains and consequent flooding. The offer for assistance in our relief efforts is equally thoughtful. Such solidarity in the face of adversity is indeed valuable," he said in reply to Modi’s letter of assistance.
Modi had on Sunday written to Sharif offering assistance to victims of devastation caused by the torrential rains and floods in PoK.
In his reply, Sharif said he was aware that the Kashmiris on the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC) have also faced heavy loss of life and material damage. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families in this difficult time, and we remain prepared to extend a helping hand, in whatever way possible, to the efforts for their relief and rehabilitation," Sharif said.
Noting that South Asia remains one of the most disaster-prone regions of the world, he said, “As we chart a course to advance our common goals of peace and stability, we must also focus on addressing the deeper causes of recurrent floods and on strengthening the preparedness and resilience of our communities against natural calamities."
“I believe closer collaboration in disaster management should be a part of our agenda of peace and development in the region," Sharif added.
The flood fury unleashed more death and destruction in Jammu and Kashmir, claiming the lives of nearly 200 people and leaving thousands marooned.
The two leaders have skilfully used the ravaging rains to build trust after India cancelled foreign secretary-level talks due Pakistan high commissioner Abdul Basit’s meetings with separatist leaders of Kashmir. Last week, Sharif also sent mangoes to Modi which helped thaw in the ties.
Meanwhile, The government in Punjab province of Pakistan has declared “flood emergency" in the province. The floods destroyed crops on more than 28,000 acres of land in Punjab. The damage was mainly caused by flooding of Chenab and Jhelum rivers. The armed forces are busy carrying out relief and rescue work and had evacuated a large number of people from various areas.
Several people were still missing in the flood-hit areas as army continued its rescue operations, media reports said. Prime Minister Sharif made an aerial survey of flood-hit areas of Sialkot and urged that rescue and relief operations should be expedited.
Sharif also made an aerial survey of the flood-hit areas in Rawlakot in PoK and asked authorities to expedite relief works for early rehabilitation of affected people. The prime minister also distributed compensation amount among victim families, Radio Pakistan reported.
He also asked cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan and Canada-based anti-government cleric Tahir ul-Qadri to end their sit-ins in Islamabad and help the flood-affected people.