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Not many of us have walked up to the head of state of our country and personally pointed out shortcomings in the government’s public health policies, with prima facie evidence at hand to back up our case, far less repeated the process a few minutes later with the prime minister. But in March, Dr Saeed ul Majeed, president of the Pakistan College of Family Medicine, did precisely that. His audacious but exemplary use of the ultimate lobbying opportunity came at a ceremony in the capital, Islamabad, where he was one of an elite group being awarded the distinguished honour Tamgha-i-Imtiaz (Medal of Distinction), with which the government recognises distinguished merit in the fields of literature, arts, sports, medicine, and science.
After the investiture, Dr Majeed noticed people smoking in the hall, in contravention of Pakistan’s law on smoking in public places. Wasting not a second of time, he went up to the country’s president, General Perveiz Musharaf, and pointed out that the Ordinance issued by him against smoking in public places was being violated in his presence. He also mentioned his disappointment that Pakistan had not yet signed the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), despite the fact that 71 other countries had seen fit to do so. Next, he approached the prime minister and asked him to get the FCTC signed by the government—just like that; as one does. Like the consummate advocate that he clearly is, when he got home he wrote follow up letters to the president and the prime minister, with copies to the federal health minister, reinforcing the importance of signing the FCTC. That’s the way to do it.