The law ministry has informed the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) that its action to move the Supreme Court (SC) against Lahore High Court’s (LHC) decision in the high profile Ephedrine case was illegal, illegitimate and hence tantamount to breach of discipline.
In a written communiqué, the law division forwarded its legal opinion to MoNC on April 4, the same day that ANF summoned Khushnood Lashari, principal secretary to prime minister (PSP) for questioning.
Lashari was holding the office of the federal health secretary when M/s Berlix Lab international of Rizwan Ahmed Khan and Danas Pharma of Ansar Farooq and Col (Retd) Tahir brother of Rauf Khalid former drug controller were allotted huge quota of 10,000 kilogrammes (kg) allegedly in sheer violation of Drug Act 1976.
These accused firms had allegedly converted the entire quota of ephedrine into addictive drug and flooded the local market with it. According to the ANF, the accused firms had allegedly made a windfall gain of Rs7 billion in the deal.
An official source told Express Investigation Cell that the MoNC conveyed the Law Division’s legal views to ANF on April 4, and again demanded it to seek withdrawal of the case scheduled to be heard by the SC on April 20. The MoNC also used the law division’s opinion to dismiss ANF chief, Major-General Syed Shakeel Hussain handing over the charge of the force to secretary MoNC, Zafar Abbas Luk. ANF has challenged the government decision of sacking its boss before the apex court.
The two firms in question had managed to get huge quota of ephedrine in 2010, claiming they had export orders from Iraq and Afghanistan. The accused also produced import orders of two foreign companies. Interestingly, both the accused firms are new entrants in Pakistan’s pharmaceutical industry. Multan-based M/s Berlix Lab International was registered in 2009 and it is not a member of Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Association (PPMA). Since these firms were allegedly linked to the country’s top decision-makers, they were granted abnormally higher ephedrine quota which was used to make addictive drugs.
The ANF probe into the matter was started in January 2010. In February 2011, the ANF gave a detailed briefing to MoNC in which the role of the two firms in question in the alleged ephedrine scam was hinted at. The MoNC gave the ANF the go ahead to complete the investigations. The ANF’s investigations spread over almost one year had established by end 2011 the alleged role of Ali Musa Gilani and Khushnood Lashari in facilitating the accused which in turn necessitated the summoning of the two for formal questioning by the investigators.
This development led to a change of guard at the MoNC as secretary, Sohail Ahmed who reportedly refused to stop the ANF from continuing the investigation was replaced by Luk. Next the ANF also lost its boss, Major-General Syed Shakeel Hussain who faced the same fate for not stopping his juniors from investigating high profile suspects.
The Gilani government appears bent upon forcing ANF to withdraw the case from the SC before its next hearing. But ANF seems convinced that its action to challenge the case before the apex court is as per rules.
Sacking of ANF chief in drug case is the second high profile case for which Gilani government used law division’s opinion. Earlier, it had sacked Naeem Khalid Lodhi, defence secretary, for submitting reply to SC in the Memo case without the government’s consent.
The law division’s entry into the controversy ahead of hearing by the SC is of extraordinary significance. It may open up a new Pandora box in coming days.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2012.