So accustomed have we become to the misdemeanours of those in power that the news that the Ministry of Narcotics Control (MoNC) has unilaterally declared the accused in the Rs7 billion ephedrine scam innocent comes as no shock. The case, which emerged in October 2011 involved two firms from Multan, which were granted export quotas far exceeding those normally allowed for the drug, while they then ended up selling locally. The name of the prime minister’s son Ali Musa Gilani has figured prominently. According to a reported statement of the health minister who granted the quotas to these firms, it was done under pressure. The secretary of the ministry transferred out of the division after facing immense pressure to exonerate those involved in this case. A letter by the ministry — which the Supreme Court has now asked be presented to it — directs the Anti Narcotics Force (ANF) to stop its investigation into the matter. In fact, the head of the ANF, a two-star general was removed from his job (though he had just a couple of weeks left in his service) and presumably that was also done to prevent him from conducting the investigation into reports that had begun to surface on the what was allegedly happening. The ANF has challenged the decision by the government to remove its chief in a court of law and on April 10 the Supreme Court issued a notice on the matter to the prime minister’s son.
Ephedrine is known as the poor man’s cocaine and quickly leads to addiction. The International Narcotics Control Board set the annual quota of ephedrine for Pakistan at 22,000 kg but the health ministry allowed a quota of 31,000 kg. Given the sensitive nature of this case, it is all the more essential that the ANF be allowed to conduct an impartial investigation into the allegations. Perhaps the Supreme Court’s involvement may help ensure precisely that, so that no one, no matter how influential or well-connected, is spared from the long arm of the law.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2012.
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