LAHORE: The office of the chief chemical examiner (CCE) is being run by officials accused of faking a report in a poisoning case and who have been recommended for forced retirement by the Chief Minister’s Inspection Team (CMIT), The Express Tribune has learnt.
An official at the histopathology lab of the Health Department has also been arrested for issuing false reports for bribes.
The chemical examiner tests samples for substances or infections that may have caused injuries or death. The histopathology lab examines organ tissue samples to establish cause of death.
Both are critical offices for the gathering of forensic evidence and obtaining convictions in criminal trials.
The Punjab government removed Dr Mubashar Atiq Azhar as CCE in the last week of February and gave additional charge of the office to Dr Abbas Ali Khan. Dr Muhammad Zaman is working as deputy chemical examiner.
Shortly after in March, the CMIT found Dr Khan and Dr Zaman guilty of issuing a fake chemical report in the death of a young man named Bahsrat Ali, who was killed in Nankana Sahib district back in October 2007. Ali’s mother Naziran Bibi believed he was poisoned, but Dr Khan issued a report in May 2008 stating that no poison had been detected.
Naziran Bibi complained about the case to the chief minister in an open court in April 2009, alleging that the chemical examiners had been bought off by the people who killed her son. The CMIT started an inquiry and issued its report in March this year. It exonerated the then CCE, Dr Abdul Qayyum, of wrongdoing but recommended compulsory retirement for Dr Khan and Dr Zaman under the Punjab Employees Efficiency, Discipline and Accountability Act. The inquiry report was sent to the health secretary for action during the first week of April, but no action has been taken against the accused yet, said a senior Health Department official.
Health Department Additional Secretary Asfandyar Khan said that action was “in process” against the officials. He said that the department had received several complaints about corruption and abuse of authority at the CCE office. “They have a bad reputation,” he said.
Asked by The Express Tribune about the accusations, Dr Khan said that if he was corrupt, the government would take action against him.
There have also been disturbing incidents of corruption in the histopathology lab of the Health Department, which hasn’t had a permanent head for four years. Professor Nasir Iqbal, who is also head of pathology at Services Hospital, has held additional charge of the office for the last four years.
Lab officials said that Prof Iqbal rarely showed up at work so there was little supervision of employees. Last March, a lab clerk named Muhammad Rafiq was arrested by the Anti Corruption Establishment for allegedly issuing fake reports in exchange for money. Rafiq has been repatriated to the Health Department.
Lab officials said that most of the histopathology examinations of samples received from the police were being conducted at a private establishment called Quality Lab that was owned by Prof Iqbal.
Prof Iqbal said that he did own Quality Lab, but denied that tests were being conducted there. He said that Rafiq had been suspended on charges of corruption. He said he had received complaints about the lab clerk issuing fake reports.
He said that the functions and responsibilities of the histopathology lab were being transferred to the Forensic Science Agency. “We have around a hundred pending cases. They will be cleared within a month,” he said.
Asfandyar Khan, the additional health secretary, said that a proposal for the merger of the CCE and histopathology lab with the FSA was being considered.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 15th, 2012.