In a surprising twist, three ministry of health officials central to the Ephedrine scandal investigations have been granted immunity from prosecution in return for testifying against former Health Secretary Khushnood Akhtar Lashari, official documents and sources familiar to the matter revealed.
The three health officials, namely Deputy Director General Health Muhammad Tanveer, Deputy Drug Controller Sayyad Hussain and former drug controller Rauf Khalid, were signatories to the document that allowed the conversion of the 9,500kg Ephedrine export quota into the local consumption supply. The ANF has granted them the status of ‘approver’, which means they will be immune from prosecution since they are key witnesses in the case.
At the same time, the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) has placed charges on Tauqeer Ali Khan, the alleged secretary of Ali Musa Gilani, along with four wholesalers mentioned in the ANF report, all of whom had previously refused to record statements against the pharmaceutical companies linked to the scandal.
According to the Chief Executive of Danas Pharma Islamabad Ansar Farooq Chaudhry and the Chief Executive of Berlex International Iftikhar Ahmed Khan Baber, Tauqeer and the four wholesalers - namely Tanveer Hussain Sherazi, Ehsanur Rehman, Muhammad Hashim Khan and Chaudhry Abdul Waheed – have only been booked because they have not recorded statements according to the wishes of ANF investigators. Both the chief executives drew parallels to former health ministry drug controller Abdul Sattar Sehrani, who prior to his arrest in the first week of April, had no direct links to the Ephedrine case. They argued that Sehrani was also arrested because he refused to give a statement to the ANF.
Meanwhile, Ali Musa Gilani, son of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and the main accused in the Ephedrine scandal, has returned to Pakistan.
According to Ali Musa’s lawyer, Salman Akram Raja, his client has reached Pakistan to join the investigation process and intends to fully cooperate with the ANF investigation team to clarify his position.
“We think there is no evidence on record against Musa… we are hopeful that due to the weakness of this case investigation officers will discharge his name from this case,” Ali Musa’s attorney said
Responding to a question regarding pre-arrest bail for Ali Musa, Fawad Chaudhry, another lawyer from his panel told The Express Tribune that it was not needed because no arrest warrant had been issued so far.
On the other hand, Ministry of Narcotics Control (MNC) Secretary Zafar Abbas Luk said that the Supreme Court’s (SC) orders pertaining to the process of fair investigation will be ensured. Talking to The Express Tribune, Luk denied SC’s assertion that he was intentionally creating hurdles in the investigation. He maintained that the ANF Headquarters had to refer all requisitions for prosecutors’ funds to the MNC, which in turn had to refer these to the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs. The MNC Secretary added that this was a necessary step and ANF officials had violated the rules in this regard.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2012.
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