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Ephedrine from Pakistan to Iran alarms Europe

May 05, 2012


“The INCB officials are coming and Pakistan officials are aware of their visit.”ANF spokesman and legal director, Col Akhtar Abbas told Dawn.   — Photo by

ISLAMABAD: The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has informed the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) that ephedrine is being smuggled from Pakistan into Iran, an official associated with the case told Dawn. A delegation of the INCB is due to visit the country in July to investigate the matter.

“The INCB has received intelligence that ephedrine chemical from Pakistan have slipped into Iran. This has triggered an alert in Europe – border security and drug control bodies are on the lookout for a massive influx of ecstasy [party drug] into the region,” the official added.

A senior federal government official talking to Dawn on condition of anonymity said: “The INCB is concerned. They have asked Pakistan’s embassy in Vienna to coordinate with the Pakistan government, and schedule a trip — most likely on July 12 to 13 — where the INCB can meet relevant people on the ground, e.g. ANF officials and the accused and approvers in the ephedrine case.”

“The ANF has also been informed by the INCB about the ephedrine chemical’s destination.

“The INCB is extremely displeased with Pakistani authorities over the smuggling of the ephedrine chemical into Iran,” the official added.

The INCB has fixed an annual quota of 22,000kg of ephedrine for Pakistan, but the ministry of health allocated 30,909.55kg in 2010. They crossed the limit of controlled chemicals allowed and violated international conventions.

Two Pakistani pharmaceutical companies, Berlex Lab International of Multan and Danas Pharmaceutical of Islamabad, were given quotas of 6,000kg and 1,500kg of ephedrine quota respectively.

According to a police official, a single ecstasy tablet costs around Rs15000 in Pakistan. The scam therefore must is therefore worth millions of dollars.

The police official said a Lahore-based firm produces the chemical as per approvals given by the federal government to local pharmaceutical companies.

Once a pharmaceutical company submits a No Objection Certificate with the ephedrine manufacturing company, the company can prepare an order, according to the police official.

“Even the ephedrine manufacturing company alerted the federal officials that they have concerns over such a quota allocation. They did not feel that the demand for the ephedrine chemical was very big in the Pakistani market - or even in the region,” says the expert.

QUOTA JUMP: According to the expert, Pakistani companies have never been allocated a quota exceeding 13000kg between 2004 and 2010. However, in 2010 the quota suddenly jumped to an abnormal 22,000kg.

“During the allocation, Pakistan conveyed to the INCB that they needed only 22000kg of ephedrine. But later, the health authorities ended up allocating 30,909.55kg in 2010” says the official.

The federal official’s claim was confirmed by the ANF spokesman and legal director, Col Akhtar Abbas, who in a statement told Dawn: “The INCB officials are coming and Pakistan officials are aware of their visit.”

“They are waiting to have their dates confirmed by Pakistan’s embassy in Vienna,” Col Abbas explained.

When asked about the reason behind the visit, Col Abbas answered: “They are not coming to Pakistan for a joyride. They have a mission, namely to probe and confirm facts related to the ephedrine scam.”

When asked to release information to the public, Col Abbas said: “We have submitted each and every record in the Supreme Court, since the matter is sub judice, but let me inform you that the destination of the chemical has also been conveyed to the Supreme Court, since the INCB conveyed this information to us [ANF].”“The chemical was smuggled to Iran - as reported by the INCB - and we submitted the information in the apex court,” added Col Abbas.

The ANF spokesman said that a list of 18 accused individuals have been sent by ANF to the concerned ministry, the Narcotics Control Division (NCD). The ANF has asked the NCD to put in a request with the Interior Ministry officials - that the names of the accused should be put on the ECL.

“But it is not done by the government, even though six months have passed,” the ANF spokesman said.

Pakistan’s international obligations: An international legal expert added that Pakistan is a signatory to the Biological and Chemical Weapons Convention signed in 1993, and regulated by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and the 1988 Vienna Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, which is regulated by INCB.

He said that ephedrine comes under class-I type drugs and chemicals, and INCB is a body which manages the quota across the world and the controlled chemical allocation is conveyed to the INCB as per the international legal commitment.

Class-I type chemical and drugs are those which are used in high dosage drugs like cocaine and heroine.

The legal expert observed that the visit of the INCB may be in correlation with the Vienna Convention – which Pakistan has agreed to with the establishment of the Control of Narcotics Substances Act 1997.