Islamabad - After a long wait of two years, finally the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) has finalised two names for the appointment of a permanent CEO of the authority.

The 15-member policy board of the authority that is headed by Ayub Sheikh, the secretary of ministry of national health services, regulations and coordination, Friday approved the names to be sent to the prime minister for further endorsement to the selection for the appointment.

Though the board reached a consensus on two candidates - Dr Aslam Afghani and Dr Mohammad Ahsan Siddqui, both from private sector - but according to officials, Dr Aslam Afghani is the real candidate and has edge over the second contender. He holds PhD in pharmacy. He is currently serving as technical director in a multinational pharmaceutical company, Otsuka, and also possesses teaching and international experience.

The second contender Dr. Ahsan Siddiqui is a medical doctor who has served in Aga Khan Hospital and currently working with a multinational pharmaceutical company Novartis.

According to officials and independent health experts, both the candidates enjoy good reputation and have relevant experience. Since its inception in 2012, the drug regulatory body is being run by officials appointed on acting charge basis. The ministry had advertised the post and received 40 applications. The applications were referred to a private company Ferguson that shortlisted five names. Then a committee formed by the ministry interviewed the shortlisted candidates. Three candidates who were already working on various DRAP positions could not qualify in interviews and they were also facing charges of corruption so they were dropped by the committee.

With the finalisation of selection process fears have started to arise that question will be raised over the impartiality of the candidates as both are from pharmaceutical industry. “Being part of the industry they would remain industry friendly and safeguard its interests whereas the job of the authority should be to guard the interests of the patients and laymen,” feared an official requesting not to be named.  

But a senior official of the ministry maintained that “it does not make any difference wherever they worked before. They will say goodbye to their employers after appointment.”

“The law was followed and the best possible candidates were selected. As per law the government candidates is given preference so they were called first for interviews but they could not qualify. The interview board of the ministry also rejected the names of government candidates and Ferguson had also kept the names of these two selected candidates on the top,” he commented.