NHS ministry defends tobacco company's donation to dam fund.

Byline: Ikram Junaidi

ISLAMABAD -- The Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) has defended the government for accepting a donation from a tobacco company after severe criticism on social media.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on NHS Dr Zafar Mirza said the government was 'firmly committed to its anti-tobacco police based on Pakistan's obligations under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) to which the country is a signatory.'

Prime Minister Imran Khan met with a representative of an international tobacco company on Tuesday and accepted a Rs5 million cheque from him for the Supreme Court's Diamer Bhasha and Mohmand Dam fund.

A photograph from the meeting was widely circulated online, triggering a debate that accepting money from a tobacco company violates Article 5.3 of the World Health Organisation's FCTC. Critics also noted that Mr Khan, who runs a cancer hospital and has been an anti-tobacco advocate, accepted the donation even though tobacco consumption is a major cause of cancer.

In his statement, Dr Mirza said that taxation measures would be enhanced to curb the prevalence of tobacco use, which causes more than 160,000 deaths in the country every year.

'Health is a very high priority for the prime minister and significant efforts have been made for tobacco control in Pakistan like banning sale of cigarettes in loose form, notifying 50pc and now 60pc size pictorial health warning on cigarette packs and banning import of sheesha,' he said.

'Ministry of NHS assures that every measure shall be taken to save lives of people of Pakistan from deadly tobacco products,' he said.

He said that most recently, the ministry asked all provincial chief secretaries and the Islamabad chief commissioner to issue directions to the relevant...

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