Imran asked not to attend event organised by tobacco company

Published May 11, 2021
Health advocates have appealed to Prime Minister Imran Khan to avoid attending an online event being organised by an international tobacco company. — Photo courtesy Imran Khan FB page
Health advocates have appealed to Prime Minister Imran Khan to avoid attending an online event being organised by an international tobacco company. — Photo courtesy Imran Khan FB page

ISLAMABAD: Health advocates have appealed to Prime Minister Imran Khan to avoid attending an online event being organised by an international tobacco company.

They have claimed that it was contrary to section 5.3 of the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and violation of Geneva Convention which suggests fulfilling international obligations.

They have further alleged that the tobacco companies used such events to enter in the power corridors and establish contacts with the decision makers.

An event titled “Shaping the post-Covid era: Asia’s role in the global recovery” is being circulating on the social media and internet. It is being also asked that will Asian leaders be able to pave the way for the post-Covid era while preserving the principles of “peace and stability” and “diversity”? Will they be able to cooperate on international issues, including overcoming future pandemics? In the 26th International Conference of the Future of Asia, it will be discussed that how Asia can enter a new era during this time of uncertainty.

On the website pictures of Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, PM of Vietnam Pham Minh Chinh, PM of Thailand Prayut Chan-o-cha, Malaysian PM Muhyiddin Yassin, PM of Nepal K.P. Sharma Oli, India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and others are mentioned as participants of a webinar being held on May 20 and 21.

Former Head of the Tobacco Control Cell Pakistan and Country’s former focal person for FCTC Ziauddin Islam, while talking to Dawn, said that the webinar was being organised by Japan chapter of an international tobacco company and newly appointed CEO of the company would share the stage along with the Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“We need to understand that tobacco industry always try to improve its image by holding corporate social responsibility activities and serving people. Moreover, they also do effort to enter in the power corridors to create personal linkages and networking to influence the policies,” he said.

“Attending such events is contrary to section 5.3 of the WHO FCTC and violation of Geneva Convention which suggests fulfilling international obligations. We don’t have any doubt on the intention of the premier but we believe that he was not guided by the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS). We have learnt that the Sri Lankan President has refused to attend the event and we expect the same from PM Imran Khan,” Dr Zia said.

He claimed that the company wanted to launch electronic cigarettes in Pakistan and that is why was trying to build contacts in power corridor.

Country Representative of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids Malik Imran, while talking to Dawn, said it was unfortunate that the prime minister was going to attend an event being organised by a tobacco company.

“I am sure that premier would not be aware about it. It is the responsibility of the Ministry of NHS to share the detail about the organisers and save the country from embarrassment at international level,” he said.

Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC states “in setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law.”

A senior official of the Ministry of NHS, requesting not to be quoted, said unfortunately tobacco industry was very powerful in Pakistan and it was very difficult to take stand against it.

“Pictorial Health Warning had to be increased from 60 to 70pc by June 30, last year but we could not implement it because of the pressure of the tobacco industry. Further increase i.e. from 70pc to 80pc will be applicable next month on June 30,” he said.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2021

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