State Minister for Narcotics Control Shehryar Khan Afridi and ANF DG Major General Arif Malik pictured during the press conference.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star
State Minister for Narcotics Control Shehryar Khan Afridi and ANF DG Major General Arif Malik pictured during the press conference.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star

ISLAMABAD: State Minister for Narcotics Control Shehryar Khan Afridi has claimed that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president for Punjab, Rana Sanaullah, has been arrested after his three-week surveillance and the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) has complete and sufficient evidence to prove his involvement in the drug business.

Speaking at a news conference with ANF chief Major General Arif Malik here on Thursday, the minister said the PML-N leader had been arrested on the basis of a lead from a person who had been arrested at Faisalabad airport.

An ANF team had arrested Sanaullah on his way to Lahore from Faisalabad on Motorway at around 3pm at Sukheyki on July 1. He is kept at Camp Jail in Lahore after he was granted a 14-day judicial remand by a district court.

The opposition parties are alleging that the government has arrested the former Punjab home minister as part of the ongoing “political victimisation campaign” against the opposition.

Refuses to give details saying they may harm investigation and key witnesses

“All the movements of Rana Sanaullah Sahib and his vehicle were observed and gauged at all levels. Video footage and other things are with us,” the minister said, while refusing to give further details saying they might harm investigation and key witnesses. He said all the evidence would be presented before courts.

Mr Afridi said the ANF people despite having tips did not stop the PML-N leader’s vehicle on three occasions as he was travelling with his female family members.

According to the minister, the value of the 15 kilogram fine quality heroin seized from Rana Sanaullah was Rs160 million in the international market. He said the PML-N leader was arrested when the heroin was being taken to Lahore for its further transportation to international destinations.

“This is not just an issue of 15kg heroin. This is the issue of Pakistan’s honour, integrity and image,” he said, adding that the government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan had zero tolerance for criminals and law would come into force against everyone, irrespective of his position or status, and even against the cabinet members.

In reply to a number of questions as to why the footage of the PML-N leader’s arrest was not released when in the past the ANF had released the footage of even those arrested for carrying a small quantity of drugs, the minister said they wanted to protect the lives of others involved in this business.

Mr Afridi said those involved in the drug business were very dangerous people and they could harm the witnesses and their families.

“All big fish will be netted,” he said, adding that soon action would be taken against more influential people. “There will be no more holy cows in the country,” he declared.

The ANF chief requested the media persons to show patience, saying the details of the case would be shared with them at an appropriate time. He said that releasing the details might harm the case.

He said it was not easy for the force to make any video during the arrest of a high-profile personality. This was not possible for us to make a video as it was not shooting a film, he added.

Responding to another question, Maj Gen Arif Malik said that the ANF did not feel necessary to obtain physical remand of Rana Sanaullah as they had “sufficient evidence” against him. He said had the ANF obtained the PML-N leader’s physical remand, people might have doubted that he had been forced to confess by being physically tortured.

Criticising the PML-N and the PPP leaders for speaking in support of Rana Sanaullah, the minister warned that those talking about him should be aware that nobody would be spared. People having any kind of role in drug smuggling would be made example for others, he added.

The ANF chief said that his force was totally professional and competent and had good repute at the international level. He said the ANF had seized about 300 tonnes of drugs having a value of $4bn in the international market during the past three to four years. Till June this year, he said over 100 tonnes of drugs valuing $2bn had been seized, he added.

He claimed that the conviction rate of the ANF cases was 95 per cent which was proof that they put their hands on the culprits only after getting complete evidence. He said the amount earned through smuggling of drugs was being used for purchase of weapons and lawlessness.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2019