BY IFTIKHAR MASHWANI
ISLAMABAD: Defeating the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Hungary, Pakistan has won the first round of elections to the global head of World Health Organization (WHO).
According to a spokesman of Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination at the election held in the United Nations office in Geneva Wednesday evening, Pakistan’s candidate and internationally acclaimed public health leader Dr Sania Nishter secured 28 votes out of an electoral college comprising 34 members.
She defeated Dr David Nabarro, United Kingdom’s Special Adviser on Sustainable Development Goals, by a wide margin who could secure only 18 votes.
Italy, France and Hungary, the other European nations contesting the elections were eliminated from the contest being unable to secure the bare minimum votes.
“This is a moment of pride for Pakistan,” said Health Minister Saira Afzal Tarar, who was in Geneva to campaign for Pakistan’s bid to the top UN position. If successful in the final round, Dr Nishtar would be the first Muslim woman and first woman from a developing nation to head the apex global health body, she added.
Saira congratulated the Prime Minister and the entire nation on this achievement saying it had raised immensely the prestige of the nation and was reflective of the enhanced image of Pakistan globally under the leadership of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The vote reflected the confidence of the global community in Pakistan that had made major advancements during the last three years in a range of areas, she added.
Dr Sania Nishter was being seen as the hot favourite for the coveted position being the most qualified with a PhD in Public Health and having served on several United Nations commissions and holding prestigious advisory positions on different international panels and health policy think tanks.
After the ebola outbreak of 2014 the world requires a top public health leader to steer the organization introducing major reforms to enable it to respond to challenges posed by emerging diseases.
Dr Nishter has promised major reforms in her 10-point manifesto, which has been welcomed by the member states as reflected in the results of the first round of elections.