The Control of Narcotics Substance (CNS) court on Monday issued arrest warrants for the son of a former prime minister and two others because of their failure to appear in the trial proceedings of the multi-billion ephedrine scam.
CNS Judge Irum Niazi issued bailable arrest warrants for Yousaf Raza Gilani’s son Ali Musa Gilani as well as for co-accused Zunair Malik and Abdul Khaliq.
The court directed the prosecution to ensure the attendance of the suspects in the next hearing, which is scheduled for May 19.
On April 21, the CNS court had indicted former federal minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin, Ali Musa Gilani and others in the ephedrine case.
The suspects have pleaded not guilty and decided to face trial. The court has directed the prosecution to produce witnesses and evidence in the case.
The ephedrine case had rocked the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government some five years ago.
The case regarding the illegal sale of ephedrine was registered after two pharmaceutical companies — Danas Pharmaceutical Limited and Berlex Lab International – were accused of obtaining export quotas for the drug in collusion with the health ministry officials that exceeded the limits fixed by the International Narcotics Control Board.
In 2010, Ali Musa was allegedly accused of influencing health ministry officials to allocate a quota of controlled chemical ephedrine, reportedly worth Rs70 billion, to two different Multan-based pharmaceutical companies. Apart from use in medicines, the substance is also used in the manufacture of party drugs.
The Gilani family has always pleaded innocence, claiming Ali had nothing to do with the ephedrine case, and that the family and the PPP was being politically victimised.
The ANF investigation, however, allegedly established a direct link between Ali Musa and the multi-billion rupee scam.
Former Health director-general Dr Rasheed Jumma, in his statement as a state approver, had accused Ali Musa and Shahabuddin of pressurising him to convert the export quota in 2010 so that 9,000 kilogrammes of ephedrine could be used for local consumption.
Two pharmaceutical companies allocated huge quantities of ephedrine in excess of their quotas. Both firms did not maintain records of consumption of the controlled chemical.
Another accused, former Danas Pharmaceuticals director Rizwan Khan, claimed in his statement as an approver that the ephedrine was smuggled to Iran through Balochistan and that the transaction netted Rs7 billion for the people involved.
Initially, the accused persons were tried by CNS court in Rawalpindi, but in 2014, in light of a Lahore High Court verdict passed on a petition filed by Berlix Pharmaceutical Chief Executive Officer Iftikhar Babar, the judge observed that it did not fall under the territorial jurisdiction of the Rawalpindi court.
The ANF then approached the Supreme Court, which remanded the case to the CNS court in Islamabad.
What is ephedrine?
Ephedrine, along with pseudoephedrine, is one of the main ingredients in methamphetamine, a scheduled narcotic substance.
According to Matt Nice of the Vienna-based International Narcotics Control Board, cartels look for a country with weak security and regulation “where you can obtain the chemicals because no one is paying attention, or it has never been a problem before.”
According to a UN report, published in 2015, “Increasing methamphetamine seizures and expert perception of high levels of methamphetamine tablet and crystalline methamphetamine use indicate the presence of a large and possibly expanding market in East and South-East Asia.”
Methamphetamine, it is said, can be more valuable and addictive than heroine.