ISLAMABAD: The Special Court for the Control of Narcotic Substances (CNS) on Friday charged nine accused, including a former federal minister and the son of an ex-prime minister, in a case related to the misuse of controlled chemical ephedrine.

The CNS judge, Irum Niazi, indicted former federal minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin and Ali Musa Gilani, the son of former Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, and others in the case.

Those who were charged on Friday included incumbent Director General Health Asad Hafeez, the directors of two pharmaceutical companies, including Ansar Farooq Chaudhry, retired Col Tahirul Wadood Lahoti, Iftikhar Babar and employees of the devolved ministry of health.

Suspects decide to plead not guilty, will stand trial for excess allocation of the chemical to two pharmaceutical companies

The ephedrine case surfaced in March 2011 when the then federal minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin told the National Assembly that the government would investigate the alleged allocation of 9,000 kilogrames of ephedrine to two pharmaceutical companies - Berlex and Danas. According to the rules, a company cannot be allocated more than 500kg of the drug.

After they were indicted, all the nine suspects pleaded not guilty and decided to stand trial. The defence counsel, Abdul Rashid Sheikh, even challenged the court’s jurisdiction saying the case pertained to the drug court. The court directed the prosecution to produce witnesses and evidence from the next hearing on May 12.

The Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) registered the ephedrine case against the accused after Danas Pharmaceutical Limited and Berlex Lab International were accused of obtaining export quota for the drug in collusion with the health ministry officials, which exceeded the limits fixed by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).

In 2010, Ali Musa Gilani was accused of influencing the health ministry officials for allocating a quota of the controlled chemical, reportedly worth Rs70 billion, to two Multan-based pharmaceutical companies.

Other than in the production of medicine, ephedrine is also used to manufacture party drugs. The then Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry began hearing the case in early 2012 and said Ali Musa Gilani was also a suspect in the case.

In his statement as the state approver, former director general health Dr Rasheed Jumma had accused both Ali Gilani and Shahabuddin of pressuring him to convert the export quota so that 9,000 kgs of ephedrine could be used for local consumption in 2010.

The two pharmaceutical companies were allocated huge quantities of ephedrine in excess of their quotas and both firms did not keep a record of the consumption of the controlled chemical.

Another accused, Rizwan Khan, former director of Danas Pharmaceuticals, in his statement as the approver claimed the drug was smuggled to Iran through Balochistan which fetched Rs7 billion for the people involved.

Initially, the accused were tried by the CNS court of Rawalpindi but in the light of the verdict passed by the Lahore High Court in 2014 on a petition of the chief executive of Berlex Pharmaceutical, Iftikhar Babar, the judge observed that it did not fall under the territorial jurisdiction of Rawalpindi court. Disposing of the ANF appeal, the Supreme Court remanded the case to the CNS court of Islamabad.

Local PML-N leader Mohammad Hanif Abbasi is also facing trial in the CNS court of Rawalpindi.

Mr Abbasi and his brother Basit Abbasi are facing charges of misuse of 500kg of the controlled chemical which he obtained for his company, Gray Pharmaceutical, in 2010. However, instead of using it in medicine, he is accused of selling it on to narcotics smugglers.

The trial against the Abbasis is in the final stage and seven of the nine witnesses have so far testified in the CNS court.

Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2017



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