Neither the prime minister, nor Ali Musa Gilani’s lawyer, Salman Raja, not even Musa himself, accused Brigadier Fahim Ahmed Khan, Force Commander of the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF)’s Regional Directorate, Rawalpindi, of being involved in what they alluded to be a ‘conspiracy’ to malign the premier’s family.
Ali Musa has been named by the brigadier in the Supreme Court as the main accused in a multi-million rupee scandal involving the quota allocation of a controlled substance, ephedrine.
However, the three left no doubt in the minds of the eight media persons — seven television anchor persons and one newspaper man – specially invited to the Prime Minister House for a detailed briefing on the matter, as to who they thought was behind it all.
Similarly, while none of the three named the president as being the real target of the ‘conspiracy’, their 90-minute long interchange with the media persons made it impossible for one not to leave with the impression that, since the prime minister was the main hurdle in the way of getting to the president, attempts were being made by some quarters to remove him from the scene by scandalising him and his family.
The whole burden of Salman Raja’s argument was that there is nothing in the voluminous documents detailing the investigations conducted so far, comprising statements of about 70 persons under section 161 of CrPc, which he said he had obtained from the court’s record, to implicate Musa Gilani in the case – except a quote from one of the accused, former Director-General Health, Rasheed Juma, stating that he had received a telephone call from a person who claimed that he was Ali Musa Gilani.
Raja thought that, if that is all they have against Musa, then there is no case against him, “unless the ANF has something more incriminating against him and have not so far revealed it.”
Musa let his lawyer do most of the talking for almost half an hour before the prime minister joined the briefing, after which began a question & answer session between the media persons and the premier.
Most of what the PM said in his responses to some very searching questions was off the record.
Khushnood Lashari, the prime minister’s principal secretary, who was also present on the occasion, on being asked refuted all allegations that Brigadier Fahim had levelled against him in his affidavit.
No one, however, attempted to deny or confirm that a crime had not been committed – but said Musa, who flew back home curtailing his honeymoon, was being wrongly implicated in the matter and that he was now available to whoever wants to question him in this regard.
If Musa was not involved in the drug scandal, the question why Brigadier Fahim was stopped from investigating the case drew almost a blank – except a claim implying that the Brigadier had proceeded without following the laid down procedure.
One understood that the Brigadier needed to seek the advice of the law ministry before investigating the case further, and that, in the absence of the Director-General ANF after the transfer of Major General Shakeel Hussain back to his parent institution, the former, under the rules, needed to get his instructions from the secretary, ministry of narcotics control.
It was also established during the briefing that a copy of every quota allocation was sent to the DG ANF, “So why was action not taken immediately when these quotas were being distributed in 2010?” the question begged an answer.
Our correspondent adds
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani seized on Monday an opportunity to prove his son’s innocence in the ongoing ephedrine case, currently being heard in the Supreme Court.
Meant to be a media briefing by the prime minister on national issues, the event turned out to be a stage for Ali Musa Gilani and his legal team to clarify his position in the high-profile case.
Ali Musa, his lawyer, the prime minister and the premier’s special secretary had already interacted with a select group of anchors and journalists just before the briefing.
Ali Musa has been named as the main accused in the ephedrine scandal by the ANF for his alleged role in the drug quota scam. The newly-elected MNA had travelled out of the country last week before his name could be placed on the Exit Control List, but was directed by his father to return home to face the charges against him.
During the briefing, the premier urged Ali Musa to interact with the media personally to clarify his position.
A composed Ali Musa strongly denied the accusations leveled by the ANF, while once again carefully avoiding talking about ANF’s Brigadier Faheem, who had spoken out against him before the court.
He also carefully directed his legal team to refrain from commenting on the Brigadier’s conduct in the Supreme Court.
Ali Musa’s counsel Salman Akram Raja termed the Ephedrine case as based on mere hypothesis. Raja said that he has categorically informed the Supreme Court that he found no solid ground to declare his client as an accused.
Raja said that the former DG health Rasheed Juma named Ali Musa and Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Khushnood Lashari to settle a personal score as the prime minister had taken notice of Juma’s misconduct when he ordered the registration of 4,000 medicines immediately after assuming charge as DG health in 2009.
He added that prime minister had ordered not to renew Juma’s contract once it expired in 2010.
While responding to a query, the counsel said that it was standard operating procedure in the health ministry for a director general to be authorised to issue quotas. He added, however, that Juma had issued 9,000 kilogrammes of Ephedrine to his brother Asif Juma, owner of a pharmaceutical lab, in excess of the allowed quota.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2012.