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RAWALPINDI, July 9: A division bench of Lahore High Court (LHC) here on Monday directed the Control of Narcotics Substance (CNS) court to record the statement of the former director general health who has become an approver in the ephedrine case and connects federal minister for textile Makhdoom Shahabuddin, Ali Musa Gilani and Khusnood Akhtar Lashari with the scam.

The bench, comprising Justice Chaudhry Mohammad Younus and Justice Ali Baqir Najfi, while hearing a petition of the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) for recording the statement of Dr Rashid Juma, directed the trial court to proceed with the case in accordance with the law.

ANF prosecutor Wasim Qureshi told the court that Dr Juma was an important and crucial witness in the case relating to the misuse of 9,000 kilogrammes of ephedrine that put at stake Pakistan’s membership of International Narcotics Control Board.

He said the ANF prosecution could not record the statement of an approver as it was different from the district prosecution who can record the approver’s testimony; therefore, in order to complete the legal process and ensure transparency and credibility of the approver’s statement it was indispensable that the CNS judge himself record the testimony.

Shah Khawar, the counsel for Makhdoom Shahab, told the court that being a principal accused in the ephedrine case Dr Juma cannot become an approver, adding the ANF had offered him a safe passage in order to trap some political figures.

He requested the court not to entertain the ANF request as the so-called approver would damage their case.

In the statement recorded before the ANF on June 16, Dr Juma had alleged that former health minister Makhdoom Shahab, Ali Musa Gilani, a son of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, and the latter’s former principal secretary Khusnood Akhtar Lashari were behind the ephedrine scam. He alleged that they had pressured and blackmailed him for the allocation and conversion of the 9,000 kilogrammes controlled chemical ephedrine to two pharmaceutical companies - Berlex and Danas.

When the same court took up the bail pleas of Makhdoom Shahab and Abdul Sattar Sohrani, a deputy drug controller, Shah Khawar maintained that he would argue the case after the decision on the ANF petition regarding the approver’s testimony.

Abdul Rashid Sheikh, the counsel for Abdul Sattar Sohrani, however, told the court that ANF authorities had arrested his client after he refused to become an approver. He said the ANF had offered Sohrani a clean chit in the case if he would turn an approver against Makhdoom Shahab, Ali Musa Gillani and Khushnood Lashari.

Advocate Sheikh said the ephedrine issue started in early 2011 when a member of the National Assembly, who owned a pharmaceutical company, raised the question regarding allocation and conversion of the controlled chemical after the health ministry did not allocate ephedrine to his company.

He said Makhdoom Shahab, then health minister, assured the house of proper investigation into the matter and constituted a team to probe the matter.

According to advocate Rashid Sheikh, his client was not named in the initial FIR and challan submitted to the court by the ANF.

The ANF counsel, however, told the court that Sohrani was also involved in the allocation of the ephedrine to the two companies. The counsel alleged that Ansar Farooq, the chief executive officer of Danas Pharmaceutical, had paid Rs115,500 as rent for Sohrani’s house.