British High Commissioner to Pakistan Philip Barton, the UK’s top most diplomat in the country, broke UK government rules by attending a meeting at which British American Tobacco (BAT), the parent company of Pakistan Tobacco Company (PTC), lobbied Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Minister of State for National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar.
Since the March 13 meeting, Barton has drawn harsh criticism from campaigners and medical experts in the UK for attending the meeting at which BAT tried to convince Dar and Tarar to drop the government’s plan to print larger pictorial health warnings on cigarette packs.
Read: Lured by revenues’ argument, Dar forms committee
“It is morally incoherent to advance tobacco control at home but oppose measures in other countries intended to reduce the burden of this lethal habit,” Dr Nick Hopkinson, a lecturer at the UK’s National Heart and Lung Institute told The Financial Times.
The guidelines were announced by the Ministry of National Health Services and Regulation in early February and were supposed to take effect from March 31 but have been delayed until May 31, according to the Financial Times.
Read: Progress report: Islamabad yet to become smoke-free
Pictures taken at the meeting show Barton sitting next to BAT senior executive Donato Del Vecchio, while Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Minister of State for National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar sat on the other side of the table.
The British Foreign Office later insisted that Barton was not lobbying on behalf of BAT and that he attended the meeting to help push attempts to combat counterfeit packaging. “At no point did the High Commissioner lobby the Government of Pakistan on the issue of health warnings,” a spokesperson for Britain’s Foreign Office later told Reuters.
This story originally appeared in the Financial Times
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