RAWALPINDI: The Minister for Textiles Makhdoom Shahabuddin, Ali Musa Gilani, son of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, and Principal Secretary to the PM, Khushnood Akhtar Lashari, face an uphill task to prove wrong a statement by the former director general of health, Dr Rashid Juma, if they want to get a clean chit in the ephedrine case.
The statement by Dr Juma, recorded by the Anti-Narcotics Force on June 16 and submitted in the Lahore High Court, alleged that the three accused were behind illegal allocation of 9,000kg of chemical ephedrine to two pharmaceutical companies, Berlex and Danas.
A two-member LHC Rawalpindi bench, comprising Justice Shahid Hameed Dar and Justice Chaudhry Mohammad Younis, directed the ANF on Tuesday to record statement of Makhdoom Shahabuddin after his counsel Shah Khawar told the court that his client wanted to join the investigation to reply to allegations levelled against him.
Dr Juma, an approver in the ephedrine case, said in his statement that Makhdoom Shahab, Ali Musa Gilani and then health secretary Khushnood Akhtar Lashari pressured him to allocate ephedrine quota of 9,000kg to Berlex and Danas. He alleged that he allocated the quota because Musa Gilani and Khushnood Lashari had blackmailed him.
Dr Juma said Musa Gilani had pressured him to allocate 6,500kg ephedrine quota to Berlex and Makhdoom Shahab told him to give 2,500kg quota to Danas.
He said Anjum Shah, who was very close to Makhdoom Shahab and Khushnood Lashari, also asked him to allocate ephedrine quota to Danas. He said when he was about to constitute a panel to process his request, Makhdoom Shahab called and told him that Anjum Shah had complained that he was not issuing orders for conversion of ephedrine.
Dr Juma said Mr Lashari used to remind him that he was a contract employee. He claimed that Musa Gilani and Khushnood Lashari did not refer the case of his extension in service to the prime minister deliberately and used it as a “blackmailing tool”.
Dr Juma, who served as director general of health from June 2008 to November 2010, said the entitlement of Berlex and Danas was 500kg of ephedrine, but because of the intervention of Khushnood Lashari the two companies were granted 9,000kg quota.
According to him, the process for the allocation of quota started on March 15 and ended on March 24, 2010.
Dr Juma alleged that soon after Berlex and Danas applied for local sale of ephedrine, Makhdoom Shahab, Musa Gilani and Khushnood Lashari started lobbying in favour of the two companies.
He said that Tauqeer Ali Khan, an alleged front man of Musa Gilani, came to his office and told him to talk to Musa on his cellphone.
Dr Juma said Musa Gilani introduced himself as the son of Yousuf Raza Gilani, asking him for allocation and conversion of ephedrine.
He claimed that Khushnood Lashari, as health secretary, violated rules and procedure while his unnecessary interference resulted in illegal allocation of ephedrine quota. He said Tauqeer Ali Khan was a regular visitor to Lashari’s office.
Dr Juma accused drug controller Sheikh Ansar of being an accomplice of Makhdoom Shahab, Musa Gilani and Khushnood Lashari.
Wasim Ahmed Qureshi, ANF special prosecutor, told the court that investigators, in order to maintain credibility of Dr Juma’s testimony, wanted the special court for Control of Narcotics Substance (CNS) to record it, but the court rejected their plea. He requested the LHC to direct the CNS court to record Dr Juma’s statement.
The High Court, however, adjourned the hearing to July 11.
The same court granted interim bail to Rizwan Khan, former director of Danas pharmaceutical company, till July 9 and directed him to deposit Rs500,000 as surety bonds.
The interim bail of Makhdoom Shahab was extended till July 9.
Advocate Faisal Hussain, counsel for Musa Gilani, told Dawn that Dr Juma’s statement needed strong corroborative evidence in its support. In his pre-arrest bail application, Dr Juma made no mention of Musa Gilani, he said, adding that it was strange that he tried to drag his client in his recent statement.
Faisal Hussain said it was a politically-motivated case designed to stop Musa Gilani, a popular figure in his constituency, from entering politics.
Shah Khawar, counsel for Makhdoom Shahabuddin, told Dawn that being an authority in the health ministry, Dr Juma was the main accused in illegal allocation and conversion of ephedrine. In order to save his skin, Dr Juma had now started blaming those who had nothing to do with the scam, he added.
Mohammad Asghar adds: Makhdoom Shahabuddin appeared before the ANF investigation team on Tuesday for a second time since his arrest warrants were issued and denied allegation that he had pressured health officials for the issuance of export quota for ephedrine, Dawn has learnt.
A source said Mr Shahabuddin told the investigators that he was not an accused in the case registered against him because he was actually a “complainant”. As health minister he had ordered a probe into the allegations, Makhdoom Shahabuddin contended.
In his written statement, he denied that he had pressurised health ministry officials to issue ephedrine quota or directly allocated any such quota, the source said.