RAWALPINDI, Sept 3: In a surprise move, the Rawalpindi bench of Lahore High Court dismissed the pre-arrest bail petitions of Makhdoom Shahabuddin and Ali Musa Gilani.
The order on Monday enables the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) to arrest the two high-profile accused in the ephedrine scam since first obtaining warrants from a trial court in June this year.
Mr Shahabuddin currently holds the portfolio of federal minister for textile industries while Mr Gilani is the son of former Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani. Both are law-makers from the Pakistan Peoples Party in the sitting parliament.
The LHC division bench comprising Justice Khawaja Imtiaz Ahmed and Justice Ibadur Rehman Lodhi declared that the petitioners were not entitled to extraordinary relief of pre-arrest bail and therefore the court would not be inclined to grant them such relief.
The court while rejecting the plea observed, “prima facie the petitioners had misused their status. By their unauthorised and illegal actions the commission of offence registered in the ANF FIR (regarding ephedrine case) was made possible.”
The order further stated: “The process of investigation is underway and for the sake of effective and meaningful investigation, active and constant association is a requirement, which is not possible by putting the petitioners at large.”
Earlier, Mr Shahabuddin had obtained pre-arrest protective transitory bail from the Peshawar High Court on June 22, 2012 while Mr Gilani had gotten the same from the Sindh High Court on July 3.
Later, the LHC division bench granted interim bails to Mr Shahabuddin on June 28 and Musa Gillani on July 17.
With the rejection of their pre-arrest bail petitions, the interim bails also expired on Monday.
But at the time of announcement of the court order, neither Mr Shahabuddin nor were Mr Gilani present in the court and the ANF officials could not arrest them.
Advocate Faisal Hussain Chaudhry arrived after the announcement and told Dawn that they did not receive any court notice otherwise the accused would definitely have appeared in the court and acted in accordance with the law.
“News about the court order appeared in certain sections of the press, but media reports are unreliable,” he said.
“Mr Gilani after hearing the reports has shortened his honeymoon trip to South Africa and will be returning to Pakistan,” he claimed.
According to him, Mr Gilani has joined the investigation at least the six times since he was asked to appear in April this year.
The case was registered on October 10 last year after two pharmaceutical companies – Danas Pharmaceutical and Berlex Lab International – were held responsible for obtaining export quotas for the drug in collusion with the health ministry officials that exceeded the limits fixed by the International Narcotics Control Board.
So far in the proceedings of the case, ANF prosecutor general, Shahid Mehmood Abbasi, and special prosecutor barrister, Waseem Ahmed Qureshi, have told the court 9,000kg ephedrine was illegally allocated to the two pharmaceuticals.
According to Advocate Abbasi, the allocation of 6,500kg ephedrine to Berlex was made within a week of its registration with the Ministry of Health when at least 200 other well-known pharmaceutical companies were waiting for their turn for the allocation of the ephedrine.
On the other hand, counsel for both Mr Shahabuddin and Mr Gilani have told the court their clients are being victimised for political reasons.
In his concluding arguments, Abdul Rasheed Sheikh, a counsel for Mr Shahabuddin, said that his client was neither nominated in the FIR registered by the ANF authorities on October 10, 2011 nor had his name included in the initial challans submitted in the court.
He contended that the only evidence against his client was the statements of two approvers – Dr Juma and Rizwan Ahmed Khan, a partner in Danas pharmaceutical company – which were recorded by ANF in violation of the laid-down procedure.Similarly, Dr. Khalid Ranjha, counsel for Mr Gilani, told the court that his client was not enjoying any official authority and was studying in England at the time of the allocation.