Investigations into the ephedrine scandal by the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) have brought two more government officials under scrutiny for involvement – Interior Secretary Khawaja Siddique Akbar, and Cabinet Division Additional Secretary Mushahidullah Baig.
Both Baig and Akbar are under investigation for their respective roles as facilitators to two pharmaceutical companies, Berlix Lab International in Multan and Danas Pharma in Islamabad, for allowing the companies a quota of 9,000 kilogrammes of ephedrine for local consumption.
Sources told the Express Investigation Cell that at least two senior officials of the devolved health ministry informed the ANF probe that Akbar facilitated the firms by trying to influence relevant ministry of narcotics control officials. Baig, they added, hid a file of the case for five months in order to thwart the investigation process.
The excess quota received by the accused firms violates the 1976 Drug Act. The Act provides that a pharmaceutical firm may be allotted an ephedrine quota of up to 500 kilogrammes only and the firm must submit a record, showing consumption, details of the medicine produced with the substance, and the addresses of the distributors to avoid its misuse. In the case of Berlix and Danas, this mandatory record is non-existent.
ANF also received clues during the probe that Akbar has a role to play in the fact that several of the key accused are mysteriously missing. These key missing players include former health director general Rashid Jumma, and a man named Taquir Ali Khan, known to be involved in other scams. These missing men are key to taking the ephedrine case to its logical conclusion. ANF is searching for these accused in order to file a charge sheet and bring the men before court.
According to reliable sources, ANF has received ‘stunning revelations’ from another official called in for questioning, the former acting health director general Asad Hafeez. On the basis of Hafeez’s disclosures, around two dozen government officials have been called in for questioning for their alleged role in the allocation of an ephedrine quota to the two accused firms.
ANF is also contemplating summoning Baig to question him over why he hide the file of the ephedrine case for five months despite the cabinet secretary’s order to conduct an inquiry into the case.
After holding back the case files for five months, Baig allegedly lied to investigators who approached him in his office to access the file and initiate an inquiry, and only handed the file over when investigators told him they knew the file was in his cupboard.
Quota allocation for ephedrine in Pakistan remains a lucrative source for making money. None of the officials in the health ministry in Islamabad sought the authenticity of the import orders in the scandal. Rather, they allowed for the entire quota to be used for local consumption. At last 30 officials of the former health ministry and other departments concerned are currently facing investigation.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 18th, 2012.
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