ISLAMABAD: Health advocates on Tuesday were shocked after they came to know that Prime Minister Imran Khan not only held a meeting with the representative of an international tobacco company, but also received a cheque for Rs5 million from him as a donation for the construction of dams in the country.
It is a clear violation of Article 5.3 of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which says that government representatives cannot meet and receive funds from tobacco companies even under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities as it is also a way of advertising, according to the country representative of the Tobacco Free Kids, Malik Imran.
The regional director of the British American Tobacco on Tuesday met Mr Khan at the PM Office and presented a cheque for Rs5m for the Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand Dams Fund.
Talking to Dawn, Mr Imran said that there was a possibility that PM Khan might not be aware that being a signatory to the FCTC, Pakistan could not receive funds from tobacco companies, adding that it was the responsibility of the prime minister’s team to inform him about it.
“It is strange that the amount has been given just a month before the announcement of the federal budget,” he said.
Talking to Dawn, Coalition for Tobacco Control Pakistan’s national coordinator Khurram Hashmi expressed his surprised that Mr Khan, who has been an anti-tobacco advocate for long and is running a cancer hospital, has received a donation from an organisation which is responsible for causing cancer.
“Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services (NHS) Dr Zafar Mirza, who has recently held meetings with WHO officials, is a pioneer of the FCTC and worked a lot against tobacco,” he said.
He suggested that the Ministry of NHS brief the premier over the issue and ensure that Mr Khan would never accept funds from the tobacco industry in future, he said.
Dr Mirza told Dawn that the issue came to his knowledge late in the evening after it was discussed on social media. “Since the issue came to my knowledge, I have been trying to contact the prime minister, but he is not available because of his engagements,” he said, adding that after discussion on the issue with Mr Khan an official statement would be issued.
He said as a government’s representative he wanted to make it clear that both the prime minister and his party were anti-tobacco advocates.
It is worth mentioning that the government of Pakistan signed the FCTC in May 2004 and ratified it the same year. The FCTC is the first international treaty to provide a framework (and attendant obligations) for tobacco regulations.
Published in Dawn, May 1st, 2019