Pakistan to participate in global anti-tobacco meet in India

Islamabad: Pakistan has finally announced its decision to take part in an international anti-tobacco meet in India, putting to rest speculations that Islamabad may skip the global meet amid an ongoing diplomatic stand-off between the two South Asian neighbours, the media reported on Tuesday.

Fozia Fayyaz, First Secretary in the Pakistan High Commission in India, will represent Pakistan at the conference being held near New Delhi, the Express News quoted Asad Hafeez, Director General in the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination, as saying.

Hafeez said the Ministry had requested the Pakistan High Commission in India via the Foreign Ministry to nominate an official to represent the country at the major event. The Indian Ministry of Health & Family Welfare is organising the Seventh Session of the Conference of Parties (COP7) under WHO FCTC from November 7 to 12 in Noida, near New Delhi, this year.

Till last week, uncertainty prevailed over Pakistan’s participation mainly because of the ongoing tension between the two neighbouring countries.  Later, there was confusion after a statement by Saira Afzal Tarar, Minister of State for National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination, in which she said the Pakistani Health Ministry officials had not secured visas to attend the conference.

The statement was later denied by Federal Health Ministry officials, which reflected a lack of coordination between the Minister and her subordinate staff. The current tensions between the two countries got worse after a staff member of Pakistan’s High Commission in New Delhi was detained by Delhi Police for questioning over espionage charges.   The tension intensified after tit-for-tat naming of diplomatic staff by both sides for alleged espionage.

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