Medicines and vitamins imported from India, shows ministry’s document

Updated 12 May 2020

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Pakistan suspended trade with India after Delhi annexed held Kashmir in August last year. — AFP/File
Pakistan suspended trade with India after Delhi annexed held Kashmir in August last year. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: While a directive has been issued by the prime minister to his aide on accountability Shahzad Akbar to probe the import of over 450 medicines from India, a document of the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) shows that a number of vitamins, drugs and salts were imported from India.

After India’s decision to annex held Kashmir on August 5, 2019, the federal government on Aug 9 suspended all kinds of trade with India. Initially, the pharmaceutical industry had appealed to relax the government’s decision for clearance of those goods already imported from India before the government decision and reached the country’s airport/seaport. In the wake of the appeal it was decided by the government to relax the rules and goods were cleared.

However, as a large number of medicines and its raw material used to be imported from India, the pharmaceutical industry started demanding that the ban should be lifted on Indian medicines and the raw material because otherwise within a few weeks, the country might face a severe shortage of medicines especially life-saving drugs. So, in order to avoid the severe crisis regarding availability of life-saving drugs in the market, the federal government lifted the ban on import of medicines and raw material from India.

Pakistan suspended trade with India after Delhi annexed held Kashmir in August last year

Later, a hue and cry started that all kinds of medicines were being imported in the name of life-saving drugs.

The document of the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS), presented before the federal cabinet on May 5 and available with Dawn, states that the prime minister in his capacity as Minister In-charge for NHS sought a list of drugs being imported from India.

The document, signed by MHS Secretary Dr Tanveer Ahmed Qureshi, shows that a number of vaccines, including BCG, Polio and Anti Tetanus Vaccine, have been imported. Moreover, a number of vitamins, including B1, B2, B6, B12, D3, Zinc Sulphate Monohydrate, were also being imported from India.

An official of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan, requesting not to be quoted, said that initially it was claimed that cancer patients would suffer if import of medicines and their raw material from India were banned.

“However, later all kinds of medicines were imported from India due to which we have been transferring the foreign exchange to India. The govt should ensure that the medicines and their raw materials are manufactured in Pakistan as it will allow us to save the precious foreign exchange and ensure export of medicines abroad,” he said.

When contacted, a senior officer of the Ministry of NHS, said that it was not appropriate to comment on it as Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar had been assigned to look into the issue.

“Moreover, the Ministry of Commerce is also involved in it so we have decided to let Mr Akbar look into the matter,” he said.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2020