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Ephedrine case suspect included in steering committee

Updated May 10, 2019

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The suspect, Ansar Farooq Chaudhry, was appointed a member of the high-level steering committee headed by the federal minister for national health services, regulations and coordination (NHSR&C) to execute project ‘Hepatitis Prevention and Control Programme at Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT)’. — Reuters/File
The suspect, Ansar Farooq Chaudhry, was appointed a member of the high-level steering committee headed by the federal minister for national health services, regulations and coordination (NHSR&C) to execute project ‘Hepatitis Prevention and Control Programme at Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT)’. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: A prime suspect in the ephedrine quota case has been given key responsibilities in a steering committee of the federal government.

Read: Ephedrine scam: the case that wasn’t there

The suspect, Ansar Farooq Chaudhry, was appointed a member of the high-level steering committee headed by the federal minister for national health services, regulations and coordination (NHSR&C) to execute project ‘Hepatitis Prevention and Control Programme at Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT)’.

Farooq Chaudhry is the prime accused in the ephedrine case in which the devolved health ministry issued 9,000kg controlled chemical ephedrine to two pharmaceutical companies — M/s Berlix and Danas — which was allegedly sold to narcotics smugglers.

Farooq Chaudhry’s name was included in the committee for being the country head of the Hepatitis Control Programme of Sarwar Foundation.

Sarwar Foundation is a non-government organisation that was run by Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar until April 24 when the governor disassociated himself from the NGO over the issue of fund collection.

NGO chief says he was included in the body because of his expertise

He announced at a press conference that the funds collected by Sarwar Foundation from his recent foreign visits as the governor would be transferred to the Punjab Aab-i-Pak Authority (PAPA) for installation of water filtration plants in the province.

The governor took the step following concerns expressed on social media that collections for filtration plants were being deposited into the accounts of Sarwar Foundation, instead of the PAPA.

According to the documents available with Dawn, the ministry constituted the six-member committee on Feb 22. The NHSR&C minister is the chairman of the committee and its members included the director general (health), the director coordination ICT, Ansar Farooq Chaudhry, the country head of the Hepatitis Control Programme Sarwar Foundation, Dr Huma Qureshi, Integral Global Consulting, and Dr Hassan Mehmood, subject matter expert.

As per the notification for the steering committee, its terms of references are “to oversee, supervise and review progress and challenges in the execution and implementation of the Hepatitis prevention and control activities at ICT. To ensure the provision of quality services (prevention and curative) for referred programme. Advocacy for the effective implementation of the programme at ICT, and coordination for resource mobilisation”.

Interestingly, in addition to the prime suspect Farooq Chaudhry, a co-accused in the same ephedrine case, Asad Hafeez being director general (health), is also a member of the committee.

According to the director coordination ICT of the NHSR&C, Dr Shabana Saleem, who is one of the members of the committee, the notification was issued with the prior approval of the federal minister, the NHSR&C secretary and the DG health.

She said that she did not know about the involvement of any member of the steering committee in the ephedrine case.

Interestingly, Farooq Chaudhry and Asad Hafeez along with others, including Ali Musa Gilani, son of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, and Makhdoom Shahabuddin, were nominated in an FIR registered by the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) on Oct 10, 2011, and in the subsequent challans.

The ANF arrested them and it was a coincidence that both Farooq Chaudhry of Danas Pharmaceutical and Hafeez as well as another accused Iftikhar Babar of Berlix Pharma were released on bail on Dec 10, 2012.

Asad Hafeez was charged with allowing the conversion of 2,415kg ephedrine from the export quota into local sale. He was arrested in June 2011.

Farooq Chaudhry and Iftikhar Ahmed Babar, the owners of Danas and Berlex pharmaceutical companies, were booked on Oct 10, 2011, for misusing and selling 9,000 kilograms of the controlled chemical to narcotics smugglers.

According to the prosecution, the accused got the ephedrine quota from the health ministry for exporting it to Iraq and Afghanistan.

When approached for comments, Farooq Chaudhry said that his name was included in the steering committee because of his expertise as he was already rendering service for the prevention of hepatitis in Sarwar Foundation.

He said that his responsibilities in the steering committee included monitoring of field staff and hepatitis control centres and devising and executing strategy to counter the disease.

Under the programme, he said, the steering committee had decided to screen 100,000 individuals, including government officials especially from the Islamabad Capital Territory Police, adding that the government had allocated Rs150 million for executing the programme.

Published in Dawn, May 10th, 2019