ISLAMABAD: Health advocates have called on Prime Minister Imran Khan to avoid attending an online event hosted by an international tobacco company.
They claimed that this was contrary to section 5.3 of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and the violation of the Geneva Convention which suggests respecting international obligations.
They further alleged that tobacco companies used such events to enter power lanes and establish contact with policymakers.
An event titled Shaping the Post-Covid Era: Asias’ Role in Global Recovery is circulating on social media and the internet. It is also asked that Asian leaders can pave the way for the post-Covid era while preserving the principles of peace, stability and diversity? Will they be able to cooperate on international issues, including to overcome future pandemics? At the 26th International Conference on the Future of Asia, it will be discussed how Asia can enter a new era in this time of uncertainty.
On the website, photos of Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Vietnam PM Pham Minh Chinh, Thailand PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, Malaysian PM Muhyiddin Yassin, PM of Nepal KP Sharma Oli, Indias External Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and others are mentioned as participants in a webinar to be held on May 20-21.
Former Pakistan and Country Tobacco Enforcement Cell Chief, former FCTC official Ziauddin Islam, while speaking to Dawn, said the webinar was hosted by the Japanese branch of an international tobacco and that the newly appointed CEO of the company would share the stage along with Prime Minister Imran Khan.
We must understand that the tobacco industry is always trying to improve its image by organizing corporate social responsibility activities and serving people. Moreover, they also strive to enter the corridors of power to create personal connections and networks to influence policies, he said.
Participation in such events is contrary to section 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention and violation of the Geneva Convention which suggests respecting international obligations. We have no doubts about the Prime Minister’s intention, but we believe he was not guided by the Department of National Health Services (NHS). We have learned that the Sri Lankan President refused to attend the event and we expect the same from Prime Minister Imran Khan, Dr Zia said.
He claimed that the company is keen to launch electronic cigarettes in Pakistan and that is why it is trying to make contacts in the electricity corridor.
Tobacco Free Kids Campaign national representative Malik Imran, while speaking to Dawn, said it was unfortunate that the Prime Minister was attending an event hosted by a tobacco company.
I am sure the Prime Minister would not know about it. It is the responsibility of the NHS department to share the details of the organizers and save the country from embarrassment internationally, he said.
Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC states that in establishing and implementing their public health policies on tobacco control, Parties must act to protect those policies against commercial and other interests of the world. tobacco industry in accordance with national legislation.
A senior NHS ministry official, asking not to be cited, said unfortunately the tobacco industry was very powerful in Pakistan and it was very difficult to oppose it.
Pictorial Health Warning had to be increased from 60 to 70 pc by June 30 of last year, but we were unable to implement it due to pressure from the tobacco industry. A further increase, namely from 70% to 80%, will be applicable next month on June 30, he said.
Posted in Dawn on May 11, 2021
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