Undermining the authority of the superior judiciary, the Ministry of Narcotics Control (MoNC) has not rolled back an office memorandum issued on April 19 to ‘demilitarise’ the Anti Narcotics Force (ANF), sources told the Express Investigation Cell.
The memorandum demands of the defence ministry to submit details of all military personnel working with the ANF. “The defence ministry is requested to confirm the date of retirement of Brig Akhtar Mahmood and all other military personnel working in the ANF,” the memorandum said.
The Supreme Court had earlier directed just-replaced MoNC Secretary Zafar Abbas Luk to withdraw his orders pertaining to the ephedrine quota case to help the ANF carry out a fair and transparent investigation. The ministry withdrew its selective orders, including the reinstatement of Brig Akhtar Mahmood and three other members of the investigation team, but decided to go forward with its plan to ‘demilitarise’ the ANF.
When contacted, a defence ministry official told the Express Investigation Cell (EIC) that the MoNC’s office memorandum of April 19 was being processed for necessary action. He said the memorandum has been forwarded to the General Headquarters (GHQ) for further action.
“The defence ministry will go by the rules and regulations in the case and give its reply to the MoNC in due course,” the official said.
According to sources, the MoNC is making a push to replace military personnel in the ANF with police officials. The MoNC letter to the defence ministry is believed to be the first phase towards the implementation of such a plan.
Around 1,500 military personnel are currently working in the ANF on deputation. Since the narcotics force deals with heinous crimes such as illicit drugs trade, military personnel were deemed fit to deal with such criminals. However, after the controversy over the ephedrine quota case blew up, military personnel are now being seen as unruly, as opposed to reliable, for top government posts.
A separate summary sent to the establishment division by the MoNC on April 19 illustrates the degree of resentment over the ephedrine quota case. After Maj General Shakeel Abbasi’s unceremonious exit, Brig Akhtar Mahmood, a key investigator in the ephedrine case, is believed to be next in the line of fire.
The summary reads: “The MoNC does not want Brig Akhtar Mahmood’s services any more as he is a source of unrest and indiscipline in the ANF.”
It goes on to demand the establishment division to repatriate ‘troublemaker’ Brig Akhtar Mahmood to the military with immediate effect. Brig Akhtar Mahmood holds a key role in the ephedrine quota case. He has not succumbed to any pressure and conducted investigations against culprits in the case with full force.
The MoNC did not respond to repeated calls made for its version of the story. Zafar Abbas Luk also did not respond to an email regarding the story.
The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has reported at least six cases of ephedrine being smuggled from Pakistan into Iran, Iraq and Australia between January 2010 and April 2011. The international drug watchdog is gravely concerned over the alarming trend and has asked Islamabad to strengthen its domestic narcotics control mechanism to prevent slippage of the ephedrine chemical into other countries.
Iran reported the first case of ephedrine smuggling from Pakistan in December 2010. It was followed by two other cases of 394 kg of ephedrine smuggled from Pakistan into Iran. Voicing serious repercussions of ephedrine smuggling, the government authorised the ANF to probe the issue in depth in early 2011.
The investigations established allocation of huge quota of ephedrine to two pharmaceutical companies – M/s Burlex Lab International, Multan and Danas Pharma Islamabad – on political considerations.
Later investigations brought under spotlight the role of a number of government officials in award of the addictive drug quota.
They allegedly played a key role in influencing the directors-general of the ministry of health for allocation of ephedrine quota of 9,000kg to Berlex and Danas pharmaceutical companies.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2012.