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July 11, 2019

Ephedrine case — A perfect example of political witch-hunting


July 11, 2019

ISLAMABAD: If Anti-Narcotics Force's record is taken a guide, the cases relating ephedrine quota appears to have been used only for political witch-hunting. Out of nine companies implicated on the alleged misuse of ephedrine quota, only one was convicted and its owner, PML-N leader, awarded life-imprisonment. Whereas some companies have been given clean chit and the main accused of this case who was awarded 9500 kg ephedrine has received a coveted position in PTI government.

The News has carried out a thorough research on ephedrine case to ascertain the facts whether all the culprits involved in this case have been penalized and reached to their logical end or not. The Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) documentary record against the nine companies allegedly involved in selling their ephedrine quota to drug smugglers proves Hanif Abbasi is the only person who has been awarded life imprisonment. The remaining companies have either been acquitted, given clean chit or not even been indicted in this case despite passage of almost nine years.

Two companies (Neutro Pharmaceuticals and Genome Pharma) facing same charges have already been acquitted by ANF court in 2014. Another two companies who obtained 9500 kilogram ephedrine have not been indicted yet and one of the accused has not only sold the company but also found close to Prime Minister Imran Khan quite often.

Surprisingly, one company which has identical similarities with Hanif Abbasi’s case has been given clean chit two months after the life imprisonment sentence of PML-N leader. The investigation officer of ephedrine case has fled the country and now residing in Italy. A key and one of the senior most official of ANF Ramzan Gil was levelled allegations of taking a house as gift from one of the company for giving clean chit.

The said senior official was reportedly removed from ANF after the allegations proved right. The key man who played important role in managing this case has been made partner in one of the accused’s company. Interestingly, ephedrine is still not included in the list of 85 controlled substance which are categorized as prohibited drugs and possession of which is penalized up to death sentence or life imprisonment. However despite not being in the list of controlled substance the ANF court while taking help from Google related it with one of controlled substance Methamphetamine as it can be made from ephedrine. On the basis of this Google research the judge awarded life imprisonment to Hanif Abbasi.

Lahore High Court's two member bench in bail appeal of Hanif Abbasi has asked the prosecution team whether ephedrine has been added in the schedule of Control of Narcotic Substance Act 1997, the prosecution response was in negative. This shows that he has been awarded death sentence even on an offence which is not even listed in the Control of Narcotic Substance Act 1997 so far.

Below are the facts of ephedrine case about 9 companies.

Case against Ansar Farooq Chaudhry

According to the ANF record, main case of Ephedrine was registered against two pharmaceutical companies i.e. Berlax International Lab and Danas pharmaceutical (pvt) Ltd on October 10, 2011. As per the FIR registered against these two companies Berlax International Lab was allotted 6500 kg ephedrine i.e. 6000 kg on 25.03.2010 and 500 kg on 22.10.2010. Danas pharmaceutical pvt Ltd was allotted 2500 kg quota i.e. 1500 kg on 15.4.2010 and 1000kg on 09.6.2010.

Both the companies were alleged in the FIR that they obtained NOC from Ministry of Health to export the ephedrine however, they sold it to local manufacturers and unknown people.

The owners of these two companies Iftikhar Ahmed khan Babar of Berlax and Ansar Farooq Chaudhry of Danas were the two main accused of ephedrine case and were arrested. The ANF authorities pleaded before the court that Ansar Mehmood Ch. sold the export quota of ephedrine to drug smugglers. The ephedrine quota was allotted for Iraq and Afghanistan export. Both were booked on October 10, 2011 but the Lahore High Court granted them bail on December 11, 2012. Despite passage of almost nine years neither Ansar Chaudhry nor Iftikhar Ahmed khan Babar has been indicted by the ANF.

Ansar Chaudhry is serving now as country head of Hepatitis control program of Sarwar Foundation. Prime Minister Imran Khan has appointed him member of steering committee of Hepatitis Prevention and Control Program. A notification in this regard was issued on February 22, 2019.

The News contacted Ansar Farooq Chaudhry — the then owner of Danas Pharma and now member of steering committee on Hepatitis Prevention and Control Program to know whether he has been indicted in the ephedrine case or not. Mr. Chaudhry informed that he hasn’t been indicted in the case yet and since the case is sub-judice he cannot speak on this issue.

He however, said the Lahore High Court in its latest judgment in Hanif Abbasi’s bail case has confirmed that Ephedrine is not a controlled substance. After this judgement by LHC, hopefully trial court will also consider this point and acquit all the accused. He said he had sold Danas pharma long ago and has nothing to do with company’s affairs now.

Details of companies issued ephedrine quota

Ministry of health had issued ephedrine quota to 99 pharmaceutical firms including 6500 kg to Iberlax and 2500 kg to Danas pharmaceutical. There were 28 pharmaceutical companies which obtained 500 kg or more ephedrine for the first time but the FIR was registered against 9 companies only. The companies against whom FIR was registered include, Danas Pharmaceutical, Berlax pharmaceutical, Friends pharmaceutical (pvt) Ltd Lahore 500 kg, Genome pharmaceutical pvt Ltd Hattar 250kg, Global pharmaceutical Islamabad 500 kg, Gray's pharma Islamabad 500 kg, Neutro pharma pvt Ltd Lahore 500 kg, Raymond pharmaceutical pvt Lahore 500 kg, Syntex pharmaceutical Attock 500 kg

Genome and Neutro Pharma acquittal

On December 31, 2010 ANF registered an FIR against two pharmaceutical companies Genome pharmaceutical pvt Ltd and Neutro pharma pvt Ltd Lahore. According to the FIR, both these companies obtained quota of ephedrine and after making samples the companies sold the remaining ephedrine to the drug smugglers.

However, on May 15, 2014 Judge Special Court Muhammad Akhtar Bahadur acquitted Genome Pharma saying that the prosecution failed to prove that the pharma company has sold the ephedrine to drug smugglers. Similarly on the same day, Judge Special Court Muhammad Akhtar also acquitted Neutro pharma saying that the prosecution failed to prove that the company sold the ephedrine to drug smugglers. Interestingly, the ANF did not challenge the court’s verdict in high court.

Case against Hanif Abbasi’s company Gray’s pharmaceutical

The ANF registered FIR against Gray’s pharmaceutical on July 21, 2012. The FIR was registered against Hanif Abbasi and his partner Mst Razia Bakhtawari as she held 50 percent shares in the company. Mst Razia Bakhtawari was nominated as co-accused in the FIR but later the ANF withdrew her from the list of accused and presented her as prosecution witness against Abbasi.

Later the ANF court in its judgment also noted that that she was having partnership of Gray's pharma in the year 2010 and 2011 and nothing is on the file regarding cancellation of partnership at that time but even then only Hanif Abbasi was convicted.

According to FIR the Gray's pharma only manufactured the samples from this ephedrine quota whereas the remaining was sold to drug smugglers and bogus sale record was presented to the authorities concerned.

The ANF Court convicted him and awarded him life imprisonment sentence just four days before the general elections 2018. He spent almost nine months in jail. Whereas his company’s as well as his personal and children’s bank accounts have been frozen and none of his family member is allowed to do banking transaction. The Lahore High Court granted him bail on April 11, 2019 and raised some important question in its short judgment. In its short judgment the two member bench of Lahore High Court asked the prosecution team whether the government of Pakistan has added the ephedrine in the schedule of Control of Narcotic Substance Act 1997. The prosecution team responded to the court that it has not been added in the schedule. It is pertinent to mention here that the trial court has awarded life imprisonment sentence to Mr. Hanif Abbasi on possession of 137 kg ephedrine which is not even listed as controlled substance yet.

The News also contacted Mr. Zahid Bakhtawari —50 percent partner in Hanif Abbasi’s company to get their point of view that how they ended up as prosecution witness rather than co-accused. Mr. Bakhtawari initially said he has time to talk to this scribe. However when he was asked when did they end the partnership with Hanif Abbasi and how they became prosecution witness, Mr. Bakhtawari said he can’t talk to this scribe right now as he is busy. Despite repeated attempts Mr. Bakhtawari did not attend this scribe’s call.

ANF gives clean chit to Global pharmaceutical

Case against Global pharmaceutical was registered on October 10, 2011. Same allegations were levelled against Global that the company purchased 500 kg Ephedrine but it only manufactured samples and remaining ephedrine was sold to drug smugglers. Their challan was submitted before the court on July 30, 2013 against Khwaja Asad Yaqub and Khwaja Sajid Yaqub owners of the company.

According to the challan submitted by ANF before the court, Global pharmaceutical shipped their product to Karachi via Ittehad Cargo Service in September and October 2010. Whereas the fact is Ittehad Cargo was shut down in 2009. The distributor of Global pharmaceutical which distributed company’s product containing ephedrine was Arafat Traders. The same distributor distributed the Gray’s pharmaceutical’s product as well. However, later Arafat traders became prosecution witness in Hanif Abbasi’s case.

As per the challan against Global pharmaceutical, the company’s record shows that 215 kg ephedrine was used for Batch number 89 whereas a single section has the capacity of 100 kg only. Similarly, General Manager (GM) Production of Global Pharma Muhamad Shoaib during the investigations informed the ANF authorities that he wasn’t supervising the production of Globodrine tab and he used to report to Director Technical Nadeem Panjtan. However, Nadeem Panjtan during the investigation revealed that all the tablets were manufactured under the supervision of Muhammad Shoaib. The ANF authorities believe there was contradiction in the statement of company’s officials.

Contrary to these allegations levelled against Global pharma in July 2013, the ANF authorities submitted another challan before the court five years later in September 2018 two months after Hanif Abbasi’s conviction in same case and withdrew all the charges against the company. The ANF gave clean chit to the company and said during the investigation Global pharmaceutical is found not guilty. The case is still pending in the court and last hearing of this case was held in March 2019.

A well-placed source informed The News that Global pharmaceutical gifted a house to one of the top official of ANF Ramzan Gil who played key role in giving clean chit to Global pharmaceutical after five years of submission of challan before the court.

Later, during the process of inquiry the allegation against Ramzan Gil proved right that he received a house from one of the accused company. The ANF removed him from his services in the anti-drug watchdog.

The News contacted CEO of Global pharmaceutical Khwaja Asad to know whether the allegations of gifting a house to ANF’s top officials were right. Khwaja Asad said these allegations are not right and he doesn’t know why Ramzan Gil was removed from ANF.

When asked how Global pharma was given clean chit after five years as there were serious charges against the pharma company in first challan. Khwaja Asad said, he had submitted several application before the Director General (DG) ANF to hold an inquiry against his company but they never responded to his requests.

“After getting no response from ANF, I approached the court and submitted an application that ANF should hear him and hold an inquiry. The court ordered the ANF to listen to me. During the inquiry ANF found that allegations levelled against my company were wrong and this is the reason they submitted second challan last year and gave clean chit to my company”, informed Khwaja Asad.

He said he has given no bribe to anyone and the second challan submitted by ANF is purely based on merit. Global pharma was supposed to be acquitted in 2014 by the same court which acquitted Genome and Neutro pharma but the ANF authorities presented supplementary challan and claimed they have inevitable evidences against the company. The court then ordered for further investigation instead of acquitting his company, he informed.

ANF’s response

The News also contacted ANF spokesperson on July 06, 2019 to get ANF point of view. The spokesperson told this scribe to send all the questions in written form so that they could respond them properly. Below are the questions sent to the ANF spokesperson through WhatsApp on July 07, 2019.

1. What is the status of case against Danas Pharmaceutical and Berlax International who were awarded 9500 kilogram ephedrine?

2. Have they both (Danas and Berlax pharma) been indicted or not? If not then what is the reason of this delay?

3. Whether ANF attached these pharmaceutical companies and imposed ban on selling these companies to someone else until the case is decided? If these companies were not attached then why some other companies were attached and their accounts were frozen?

4. Is it true that Danas pharmaceutical has been sold? If yes what action was taken by ANF against the accused owner who sold the company even before the case is decided?

5. The ANF submitted a fresh challan against Global Pharmaceutical in ephedrine case in the court and has given clean chit to the said pharmaceutical company after eight years? Why the company has been given clean chit?

6. If the company was innocent then does it mean the previous ANF top management was wrong in levelling allegation against the said company? If the previous management of ANF was wrong to level baseless allegation against Global then what action has been taken against those ANF officials?

7. Is it true former ANF official Ramzan Gil was accused of getting a house as gift from the accused company Global Pharmaceutical and later when this accusation was proved right he was removed from his job?

8. What are the nature of allegations against former Inspector Shakil? What is the outcome of inquiry against him?

9. Inspector Shakil is currently residing in Italy. Whether ANF through government of Pakistan has approached the Italian government for his extradition?

The ANF spokesperson gave confirmation of receiving these questions. However, instead of responding to these questions, the spokesperson did not attend this scribe’s call despite almost a dozen attempts in last three days.

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