Documented irregularities have revealed that a power struggle between actors in the Ministry of Narcotics Control, the Anti Narcotics Force (ANF) and the prime minister himself, led to the highlighting of the role allegedly played by the prime minister’s younger son in Ephedrine scandal, sources told The Express Tribune.
Five other pharmaceutical companies had also been given an approval of a quota of 122,712 kilograms of Ephedrine, a controlled drug, over three years, 2008, 2009 and 2010 (40,904 kilograms each year), but the Anti Narcotics Force (ANF) never initiated a probe against any of the five pharmaceutical labs, official documents show.
Owners of the two accused pharmaceutical companies Ansar Farooq Chaudhry and Rizwan Ahmed Khan confirmed this information while talking to The Express Tribune.
In their comments, Chaudhry and Khan also criticised a section of the media for conducting a witch hunt against the premier’s son, saying, for example, that the price of 9,000 kilograms of Ephedrine is only Rs54 million – only a fraction of the “Rs7 billion” being reported in the media. They added that the price of Ephedrine is only Rs6,000 per kg.
A Karachi-based lab’s quota of 18,000 kilograms of chemical Ephedrine was also approved in each of 2008, 2009 and 2010 (a total of 54,000 kilograms) while another pharmaceutical lab’s total quota of 30,000 kilograms of Ephedrine was also approved during the same period. Yet another lab in Karachi was given approval of 15,042 kilograms over three years, while 12,752 kilograms was approved for an Islamabad-based lab during the same period. The ministry of health had approved a quota of 10,818 kilograms for an Islamabad-based lab over three years, official documents further revealed.
Nevertheless, despite the record of approval for such enormous quotas of Ephedrine in the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Narcotics Control, the ANF failed to initiate any action against any other pharmaceutical company or any official of the Ministry of Health.
Instead, the ANF only registered a case against two firms, ie, M/s Berlex Labs International, Multan, and M/s Danas Pharma, Islamabad, for getting an approved quota of 9,000 kilograms of Ephedrine. The accused owners of these labs have accused certain ANF officials of trying to malign the prime minister through his son and his principal secretary as he had earlier served as health secretary.
In any case, the ANF, the Senate Standing Committee on Interior, the Ministry of Health, and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), had earlier all cleared the two pharmaceutical companies. The Ministry of Health had issued a permission letter to M/s Berlex Lab International, Multan, on March 25, 2010, regarding the purchase of 6,000 kilograms of Ephedrine from M/s Alpha Chemicals (Pvt) Ltd, Lahore.
Later, the names of the Ali Musa Gilani and the prime minister’s principal secretary Khushnood Akhtar Lashari were not mentioned in the FIR, supplementary charges sheets, or even the report submitted before the Special Court for Anti Narcotics, Rawalpindi.
The FIR stated that M/s Berlex Lab after obtaining a quota of 6,500 kilograms and M/s Danas Pharma after obtaining a quota of 2,500 kilograms of Ephedrine, sold the drug to smugglers. However, despite a lapse of several months, the ANF has yet to complete an investigation into the matter or reveal any details about the names or whereabouts of the alleged smugglers involved, documents available with The Express Tribune revealed.
In addition, the involvement of the ANF is itself puzzling – given that not been a single case in Pakistan has ever been registered on the grounds that narcotics could be made through ephedrine. The ANF had nothing to do with the case as it came within the purview of the health ministry and the Drug Act, because ephedrine is not an illicit drug.
Within this irregularity, there are more legal problems.
Since, under the law, an FIR is only registered after recovery of illicit drugs, former secretary (Narcotics) Sohail Ahmed’s order to register an FIR instead of seeking a legal opinion about the suspected irregularities in allocating the quota to the pharmaceutical companies was actually illegal.
The owners of these labs went on to claim that the ANF had first tried to pressurise them regarding the involvement of Ali Musa Gilani and Akhtar Lashari and when that didn’t work, they pressurised officials of the ministry of health to link them to the case in any capacity.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 20th, 2012.