Premiership in Pakistan, it seems, is a curse these days. Days after a sitting prime minister was dismissed by the apex court, the would-be prime minister has been made a wanted man.
An Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) court on Thursday issued non-bailable warrants for the arrest of both Makhdoom Shahabuddin and Ali Musa Gilani, the former prime minister’s son, in connection with the ephedrine case. The warrants came hours after Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) nominated Shahabuddin as a candidate for prime minister. ANF Magistrate Shafqatullah Khan allowed an application from ANF Deputy Director Abid Zulfiqar, who, along with ANF prosecutor Touqeer Satti, had asked for arrest warrants for both the accused. Both officials maintain in their application that Shahabuddin failed to appear before investigators despite being summoned on June 18 and 19.
The two officials maintain ANF has ample evidence against Shahabuddin, who, while serving as the federal minister for health, sent his agent Anjum Shah to then director general (DG) Health Dr Rasheed Jumma for the allocation of a 2,500kg ephedrine quota to Danas Pharmaceutical Islamabad. This information was contained in their written submission to the court.
According to their application, Shahabuddin later pressurised Dr Jumma to convert the ephedrine export quota for domestic consumption. His agent Anjum personally delivered the conversion orders to the owner of Danas Pharmaceutical, Ansar Farooq, and his partner Tahirul Wadood Lahoti.
The officials further say that Ansar Farooq allegedly paid up to Rs6 million to then health minister Shahabuddin for obtaining the quota.
During the hearing at the magistrate’s court, ANF Commander Brigadier Faheem and Investigating Officer (IO) Abid Zulfiqar also presented a report stating they had evidence and witness testimonies proving the direct involvement of both Shahabuddin and Ali Musa Gilani in providing the illegal quota of ephedrine.
Forwarding a request to be an immunity-granted witness, former DG Health Dr Rasheed Jumma verified in his statement to the investigation team that it was Shahabuddin who approved the 6,000kg ephedrine quota allotment to Berlex Lab International and 2,500kg to Danas Pharmaceutical. He added that Ali Musa Gilani pressed for the allotment of the quota as well.
In their request for warrants against Ali Musa, son of disqualified premier Yousaf Raza Gilani and a National Assembly member (MNA) from Multan, the ANF contended that he used his influence as the son of a sitting prime minister to have 500kg of ephedrine, intended for export to Iraq, sanctioned for Berlex Lab International. He later had the quota converted for local consumption and increased its quantity up to 6,000kg, the ANF said. The officials also accused Ali Musa of assisting the smuggling of ephedrine.
Speaking to the media, ANF DG Major General Malik Zaffar Iqbal maintained the issuance of warrants was a coincidence and had no connection with Shahabuddin’s nomination as a candidate for premiership. Responding to a question, he said the process to put all the accused names, including Shahabuddin and Ali Musa, on the Exit Control List (ECL) had been initiated. Iqbal further said that the Supreme Court had direct ANF to complete its investigations in the ephedrine case by the end of this month.
(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM NEWS DESK)
Published In The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2012.