ISLAMABAD, March 9: Former principal secretary to the prime minister, Khushnood Akhtar Lashari, a missing link in the ephedrine case, has planned to surrender to court after the formation of caretaker setup.
The Control of Narcotics Substances (CNS) court on March 8 issued a proclamation declaring Lashari and two other accused persons as proclaimed offenders.
Under the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), after issuance of the proclamation the court gives a month’s time to the absconding accused to surrender and if they don’t it starts the process to confiscate their assets and properties.Mr Lashari was allegedly involved in the scandal in two capacities: first as health secretary in 2010 when 9,000 kg ephedrine quotas were allocated to two pharmaceutical companies Berlix and Danas, and then as the PM’s principal secretary in 2011 when he allegedly tried to protect Ali Musa Gillani, the son of former prime minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani.
A local lawyer Imran Awan, who claimed to be a family friend of Mr Lashari, told Dawn that former principal secretary was likely to return after March 16 when the caretaker government would be in place.
“I am in touch with Mr Lashari through ‘Skype’ and we have discussed in detail several legal aspects of the ephedrine case.”
Advocate Awan has also obtained legal documents related to ephedrine case from the CNS court on behalf of Mr Lashari.
He claimed that Mr Lashari was ready to face arrest on his arrival but was also hopeful of obtaining bail.
“All the nine accused including federal textile minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin and MNA Ali Musa Gillani have been granted bail and under the law, Mr Lashari would also be granted bail”, said Awan.
According to him, on return Mr Lashari would decide whether he would join investigation as an accused or approver.
Mr Lashari fled to the United Kingdom in the second week of June last year, hardly a week before the Anti Narcotics Force (ANF) obtained warrants for the arrest of federal minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin who was at that time a candidate of ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and its allies for the office of prime minister.
Initially, he went on ‘medical leave’ for a month but in July he reportedly applied for ‘leave prior to retirement’ as he is going to be retired in April this year.
The ANF sources said that the Establishment Division told them Mr Lashari was ‘absent without leave’ after September 30, 2012 because his one month medical leave was extended till the September’s end.
According to the final challan of the ephedrine case, Mr Lashari ordered his subordinates, the then deputy drug controllers Mohammad Tanvir and Rauf Khalid, to testify against the ANF and blamed ANF officials for harassing them.
He also asked Asad Hafeez, acting director general health, for recording statements against the ANF but Hafeez dodged him, the challan added.
The challan alleged that Mr Lashari offered support of state machinery to then director general ANF Brigadier Faheem Ahmed Khan if the ANF would exonerate Ali Musa Gillani in the ephedrine case.
The two accused persons – Dr Rasheed Juma former DG health and Rizwan Ahmed Khan former director of Danas pharmaceutical company – who later turned approvers also alleged that Mr Lashari was behind the allocation of 9000 kg ephedrine to the two pharmaceutical companies.
Abdul Rasheed Sheikh, counsel for Makhdoom Shahab sees the return of Mr Lashari a part of broader conspiracy.
While talking to Dawn he said the prosecution seemed to be interested in trapping his client only.
Chaudhry Faisal Hussain, counsel of Ali Musa Gillani also expressed some reservations over the return of Mr Lashari at the time when the trial court has commenced the proceedings in ephedrine case.