KARACHI: A senior official of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap), who says he was sacked for raising concerns over the manner in which an anti-typhoid vaccine was imported from India, has rebutted the allegations made by the special assistant to the prime minister (SAPM) on health challenging him to prove the charges.

On Jan 10, the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) dismissed Dr Obaid Ali, a Drap deputy director in grade-18, stating he was granted 20-day ex-Pakistan leave from Sept 26, 2018, and during the leave he was posted to Drap’s pharmacy service division but he did not report to his posting till date.

Besides, the officer appeared in the media and spoke against Drap, it further stated. But SAPM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza told this newspaper earlier that “because of his [Dr Ali’s] repeated allegations about the running of Drap, an inquiry was held. He made some allegations which were unacceptable so it was decided to terminate him”.

However, the sacked official contested the charges levelled against him through a legal notice sent to Dr Mirza asking him to indicate which allegation he was referring to, why they were unacceptable and under what law.

“As a matter of fact, I stood for the availability of safe, quality and effective drugs at affordable prices. I raised voice against all unlawful governance, appointments/ postings being influenced by your office as well as misleading to federal cabinet on several official matters of public trust. None of my letters have been responded. If my notes were not correct, I may have been issued either a memorandum or an explanation or a show-cause notice,” stated the legal notice.

Karachi-based Dr Ali, a PhD in pharmaceutical quality, is known to have highlighted several incidences of malpractice and corruption as he had approached the Supreme Court and Prime Minister Imran Khan on exorbitant medicine and transfer pricing by pharmaceutical companies in connivance with Drap officials.

Prior to his dismissal, the NHS ministry had in February 2018 accepted the resignation of his wife, Roohi Bano Obaid, also a deputy director in Drap and a PhD, instead of paying any heed towards her frequent highlighting of the alleged corrupt practices prevalent in Drap.

Her resignation letter stated that she was “not ready to be part of the current dishonest and fairly incompetent system that promotes and believes in blind registration of drugs leading to questionable quality, generally fake inspections and licensing of manufacturing sites, and use of wrong tools for surveillance and vigilance.”

On Nov 21, 2019, Dr Ali wrote a letter to the director general (DG) of Sindh’s directorate of inspection and registration of private institutions, regarding Sindh’s anti-typhoid vaccination drive in which he raised questions regarding the urgency to pay a hefty amount on the import of the vaccine from India and on whose permission, its clinical trial, if any, was done in Pakistan, etc.

Instead of replying to the points raised in the letter, the health ministry launched a campaign against Dr Ali alleging he was against the vaccination drive to prevent the spread of drug-resistant typhoid.

Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2020