Sharif’s earthquake diplomacy with Turkey fails

Erdoğan Shehbaz Sharif Turkey

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s “earthquake diplomacy” has failed as he has decided to postpone his visit to quake-hit Turkey after planning to visit victims of the tragedy.

Sharif was to leave for Turkey on Wednesday morning along with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and other officials to “express his condolences”. The plan also included visiting quake-affected areas and holding meetings in Turkish capital Ankara.

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Marriyum Aurangzeb, who is also Sharif’s niece, had tweeted about the Prime Minister’s plans to visit Turkey in solidarity.

Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune says that Sharif’s visit was postponed at the last minute due to bad weather as well as rescue work. Citing sources, the newspaper says: “Sources added that PM Shehbaz would not be able to visit the affected areas as helicopter could not fly during bad weather, while the president and vice president of Turkiye are also engaged in relief activities”.

Sharif’s high-profile visit to Turkey, when the country is reportedly extremely busy, was planned after cancelling an all party meet on terrorism, which had already been postponed once earlier. Pakistan is in the grip of severe violence for over a year due to the heightened activities of the Tehreek-i-Taliban (TTP) which blew up a mosque in Peshawar last week killing 101, mostly policemen.

However, it is also being rumoured that the Turkish Foreign Ministry advised Pakistan to postpone Sharif’s Turkey visit as the country’s government is busy in relief and relief operations and would not be able to attend to the Prime Minister and his entourage.

A series of three devastating earthquakes shook Turkey earlier this week caused unprecedented damage, killing nearly 8,000 people and causing high-rise buildings to collapse like a pack of cards. Nearly 70 countries have rushed aid to the country.

India was one of the first countries to send aid to Turkey. In the latest, the Indian Army on Tuesday dispatched a mobile medical unit along with 99 soldiers and equipment, including oxygen generating plants to Ankara.

A day earlier, India had sent 100 members of the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) and excavation equipment, food and medical supplies to Turkey. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has been actively involved in supporting Ankara in its time of need.

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