­ISLAMABAD  -  Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar has directed the Lahore High Court registrar to fix a case regarding the alleged involvement of former army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and others in closing down a “legally established” medical store depot, and manufacturing, procuring and supplying substandard and spurious medicines to 27 Combined Military Hospitals (CMH).

The order was issued on a petition that said other top military officials including Lt-Gen (retd) Athar, Lt-Gen (retd) Asif Yasin, Managing Director Reliance Pharmaceutical Company Lt-Col Naveed Akbar Tanveer and all central officers (record office) of the General Headquarters (GHQ) were also allegedly involved in getting the medical depot closed down.

“Let the appellant avail his remedy before the noted forum. The Registrar of the learned Lahore High Court is directed to fix the matter before the Court,” said a one-page Supreme Court order.

The chief justice also observed: “This case (disbanding armed forces medical store depot and manufacturing, supplying and procuring substandard and spurious medicines to CMHs) does not fall within the purview of Article 184 (3) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973.”

While directing the LHC registrar for fixing the matter, the chief justice observed, “I (chief justice) am sanguine that the learned court shall decide the matter expeditiously.”

On June 26, the chief justice took up the application in the chamber after the petitioner had challenged the Supreme Court registrar’s objections.

“Let the appellant avail his remedy before the noted forum. The Registrar of the learned Lahore High Court is directed to fix the matter before the Court and Office objection is therefore sustained and the miscellaneous appeal is accordingly dismissed,” the top court’s order said.

On April 19, the SC registrar had returned the petition with objections.

The petition filed by Col (retd) Inamur Rahim had alleged that “a group involved in the matter of illegal disbandment of the depot and illegal transfer of the civilian staff, was headed by Gen (retd) Kayani, former Corps Commander Karachi Lt-Gen Athar, who after the retirement, served as secretary Ministry of Defence”.

“During his [Athar] stay as Corps Commander at Karachi, he came across certain medicine manufacturers and knew their business technique and after his retirement from [the] armed forces, he decided to set up the business of medicines,” the petition stated.

It further said that “Athar got the services of former Lt-Col Naveed who had a long association with him and kept on looking after his other extra service interests.” “After the retirement, Lt Col Naveed established a pharmaceutical factory as a frontman of Lt-Gen (retd) Athar,” the petition alleged.

In 2009, a drug inspector sent the sample of Tinize tablets manufactured by Medizan Laboratories (Pvt) Ltd, which was supplied to the DHQ hospital Rawalpindi and in the market.

The Drug Testing Laboratory Punjab in February 2009 confirmed that the said drug was substandard and also revealed that M/s Medizan had also issued warranty to M/s Foray Pharma in 2008.

“That due to the involvement of senior hierarchy of [the] armed forces, neither the factory was sealed nor the accused persons were arrested and they continued the business,” the petition stated.

“However, during 2016 due to effective campaign of [the] Punjab government against the substandard medicine manufacturers, action was initiated against these accused persons also and in the instant case after seven years of registration of a complaint and various tests, the Punjab Quality Board on 14 July 2016 issued the order for prosecution against all the accused persons,” it said.

The petition further contended that after nine years of the continuous and perpetual offence, Lt-Col (retd) Naveed was charge-sheeted by the Drug Court.

“After registration of [the] FIR for manufacturing and supplying substandard medicines to the civil market, the consignment was offered to different CMHs, but due to policy of [the] federal government, [the] CMHs were not allowed bulk purchases as commandant CMH could only purchase emergency medicines from the market, if not available in the store, called as LP [local purchase].”

The petition said that during a meeting at the GHQ, it was revealed that in the presence of the AFMSD Nowshera, the CMHs were not allowed to purchase any medicine directly from the supplier, after which it was decided to do away with the AFMSD Nowshera.

“For that purpose, a proposal was floated to secretary Ministry of Defence for the disbandment of the AFMSD Nowshera and establishment of 27 sub-depots at every CMH to directly purchase the medicines from the manufacturing units/suppliers.”

“The proposal could not materialize as at that point of time Nargas Sethi was secretary defence and it was not expected out of her to issue the disbandment order, therefore, Gen Kayani used his influence and got Nargas Sethi transferred and [was] not allowed to complete the tenure,” the petitioner claimed.

“She [Sethi] could only serve as Secretary Ministry of Defence for six months. Then Gen Kayani managed Lt-Gen Asif Yasin, who was then retired as Corps Commander Peshawar, and in July 2012 he was appointed as secretary Ministry of Defence,” it added.

The petition stated that “in 2013 a fake letter, purported to be with the approval of the federal government, was issued by Lt-Gen (retd) Asif Yasin with the connivance of the COAS Kayani.”

The petition contended that the letter was fake and the federal government never gave such approval of disbandment of Nowshera depot and adjustment of a huge number of civilian employees, those, otherwise, could not be posted out as been Inter-Services Organization (ISO) employees.

It added that Medizon Pharma was sold away during 2016-2017 and the investment was transferred to another Pharma Firm known as Reliance where Lt-Col (retd) Naveed was working as general manager production.

 “It is also on record that one of the present partners of Reliance Pharmaceutical was involved in famous Ephedrine case,” the petition stated.

 “At the moment only one medicine is regularly sent for testing that is Tab Maloquine meant for Congo Fever, which is used by the troops sent on UN Missions, since it is the requirement of UN that no medicine would be accepted from Pakistan without test report, therefore, it is the only medicine which is tested regularly and supplied accordingly.”

“One of the medical officers, served at CMH Bannu, observed negative effects of injections namely “Ketrogesic and Suzone,” and reported the issue, earned the wrath, and subsequently, the officer tendered resignation,” it said.

 “Despite this, both the Pharma firms were never blacklisted for supplying spurious and substandard medicines to war zones, nor the supply of such injections in other 27 CMHs were discontinued,” the petition claimed.

The petition had prayed to the top court to issue directions for a complete audit of the medical store tendered, purchased and procured by the improperly established depots at 27 CMHs.

It had further prayed to refer the matter regarding disbanding the legally-established depot to the NAB for criminal proceedings.

 

SYED SABEEHUL HUSSNAIN