IHC suspends cabinet’s decision to sack former Drap CEO

Published April 15, 2021
The court has also stopped the government from appointing the new head of the authority till the next hearing.
— IHC website/File
The court has also stopped the government from appointing the new head of the authority till the next hearing. — IHC website/File

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday suspended the federal cabinet’s decision of terminating former chief executive officer (CEO) of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) from his service.

The court has also stopped the government from appointing the new head of the authority till the next hearing.

It is pertinent to mention here that last month the federal government had decided to dismiss former Drap CEO Sheikh Akhtar Hussain. Earlier Mr Sheikh was suspended in March 2019 for holding a dubious directorate degree. Since then Asim Rauf had been working as the acting CEO of the authority.

Last week, Mr Sheikh had approached the IHC against the federal cabinet”s decision.

A single bench, comprising Justice Babar Sattar, directed the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) to provide summary regarding removal of the former CEO. Moreover, the court also directed that the federal cabinet’s decision on the dismissal of Mr Sheikh be submitted.

Later Mr Sheikh reached Drap office and assumed charge of the post of CEO. However, he was told by the staff that it was not possible to allow him to start pworking as the CEO without the ministry’s notification.

Mr Sheiklh then went to the ministry but could not succeed to have a meeting with NHS secretary Amir Ashraf Khuwaja.

An official of the ministry, requesting not to be named, said the ministry may seek advice from the Law Division before allowing Mr Sheikh to resume his duty.

“The officer has been removed by the federal cabinet therefore we are not in a position to allow him to start functioning. Moreover the next hearing of the court will be held after a fortnight so I believe that it would be better to request the court to give its opinion that if Mr Sheikh should be allowed to work as the Drap CEO. However the health secretary is the final authority to decide about the fate of Mr Sheikh,” he said.

The meeting between Health Secretary Amir Ashraf Khuwaja and Mr Sheikh could not be held till the filing of this report.

It is worth mentioning that Mr Sheikh was appointed as CEO during the tenure of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. The incumbent government also decided to retain him as CEO. However an officer of Drap, who was also a candidate for the post of CEO, had challenged the appointment in IHC. Later an inquiry was held and Mr Sheikh was suspended.

Meanwhile the World Health Organisation (WHO) representative in Pakistan, Dr Palitha Mahipala, has expressed his deepest appreciation and gratitude on the government’s decision to commemorate the first of Ramazan as the National Quit Day of Smoking.

In a statement, Dr Palitha congratulated Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan for declaring the first of Ramazan as the ‘National Quit Day’.

“It is high time for people of this great nation to encourage smokers in their homes, workplaces and communities to quit smoking. The holy month of Ramazan is a real opportunity to quit,” he said.

“Tobacco is deadly in any form. Smoked tobacco products, including waterpipes, contain over 7,000 chemicals, including at least 250 chemicals known to be toxic or that cause cancer. Tobacco use harms nearly every organ of the body. Globally, tobacco kills eight million people every year. Over one million deaths attributed to tobacco are due to second-hand smoke exposure. Someone is dying of tobacco-related diseases every four seconds,” he said.

Dr Palitha said tobacco was the most common risk of non-communicable diseases which is causing around 58pc mortality in Pakistan.

He said Pakistan had taken a number of steps like ban on the sale of loose cigarettes, ban on point of sale, large-sized pictorial health warning, high tobacco taxation and now the National Quit Day.

“This is a sheer display of government commitment to reduce tobacco use by 30pc by 2025. I am very happy that if the current momentum continues, Pakistan is the only country in our region that would achieve the target of reducing tobacco use by 30pc by 2025. However, we cannot be complacent; we need to do more and continue our joint endeavours to counter tobacco industry tactics to promote tobacco and tobacco novel products,” he said.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2021

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