RAWALPINDI - The Control of Narcotics Substances (CNS) Court special judge Saturday awarded life imprisonment to Pakistan PML-N ex-MNA and candidate from NA-60, Muhammad Hanif Abbasi , while announcing verdict in ephedrine smuggling case.

Hanif Abbasi was the fourth PML-N leader disqualified and sentenced by the courts before the election.

The court acquitted other seven accused in the ephedrine case due to insufficient evidence. Those acquitted are Nasir Khan, Basit Abbasi (brother of Hanif Abbasi), Siraj Abbasi, Mohsin Khurshid, Nazakat, Ghazanfar and Ahmed Bilal.

With conviction in ephedrine smuggling case, Hanif Abbasi stands disqualified and can’t contest election. He was contesting election on the ticket of PML-N against Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed who is also enjoying support of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. The court also imposed fine of Rs 1 million on Hanif Abbasi . In case of nonpayment of fine, he will have to spend two more years behind bars, the court held.

Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) investigators arrested Hanif Abbasi with a lot of difficulty after the announcement of the verdict as scores of leaders and workers of PML-N tried to hinder his capture. The workers also ransacked the courtroom.

Some violent protesters also broke windowpanes of the court with stones. ANF took Hanif Abbasi in armoured personnel carrier to Adiala Jail, where PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam are already spending a sentence awarded in Avenfield case.

Judge Sardar Muhammad Akram in his verdict noted Hanif Abbasi could not prove the use of 137kg of ephedrine in procurement of medicines and could only prove use of 363kg ephedrine.

The judge announced the decision in the presence of a large number of PML-N workers outside and inside the courtroom, sparking unrest among the workers and leaders.

PML-N leaders Hanif Abbasi and Chaudhry Tanvir Ali Khan remained in the court from afternoon till the announcement of the decision 10.00 pm.

The presence of PML-N workers in and around the court annoyed the judge who stopped them from entering the courtroom as he was facing problem in concentrating on writing the decision.

The charged workers around the courtroom chanted slogans in favour of Hanif Abbasi and Nawaz Sharif. They also clashed with police and ANF at the time of arrest of Abbasi. The ANF investigators locked the courtroom to avoid more influx of workers and leaders of PML-N standing outside the courtroom. At a stage, the enraged workers also attempted to free Abbasi from ANF custody. The force, however, managed to put the convicted leader of N-League into armoured personnel carrier and took him to Adiala Jail.

The confusion prevailed in the city about the decision of the court from morning till late night. The decision was delayed for many times. The court also barred journalists from entering the courtroom. The journalists staged a protest demonstration against the judge. Later, the judicial staff allowed the media persons to enter the court.

A day earlier, Judge Muhammad Akram Khan rejected Abbasi’s plea to delay the trial’s deadline, noting it has to follow orders of the Lahore High Court.

On Tuesday last, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had dismissed Abbasi’s petition against the LHC order with the direction to conclude the ephedrine case against him by July 21.

On July 11, the Rawalpindi Bench of LHC, deciding on a plea filed by Shahid Orakzai, held the trial be conducted daily from July 16 onwards to conclude it on July 21.

For the first time, ephedrine case came into light in March 2011 when the then federal minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin told the National Assembly that the government would investigate the alleged allocation of 9,000kg of ephedrine to two pharmaceutical companies, Berlex Lab International and Danas Pharmaceutical Limited. According to the rules, a company could not be allocated more than 500kg of ephedrine, a limit fixed by the International Narcotics Control Board.

Hanif Abbasi had been charged with the illegal use of controlled chemical ephedrine of which he obtained 500kg allegedly for his company, Gray Pharmaceuticals, in 2010. Officials of the Anti-Narcotics Force claimed Abbasi sold the substance to narcotics smugglers who used it to produce illegal drugs.

The Anti Narcotics Force registered a case against Abbasi and his accomplices in June 2012 under sections 9-C, 14 and 15 of CNS Act under which an accused can be awarded death sentence.

On October 29, 2014, the CNS Court indicted PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi and eight others in the ephedrine case. The CNS Court also indicted Basit Abbasi, brother of Hanif Abbasi , distributor and employees of Gray Pharma.

The delay in the announcement of ephedrine smuggling case tested the nerves of almost everybody present in the court premises, including lawyers, political leaders, personnel of law-enforcement agencies and even media persons as the court first reserved its verdict for 3pm after completion of arguments of Tanvir, the lawyer of Hanif Abbasi . Then the court delayed the verdict till 5pm. Later, it was stated the court will deliver its verdict at 6pm. Finally, the court announced its verdict at 10:30pm. Some journalists and lawyers went into sleep in the courtroom while awaiting announcement of judgment in the case.

Legal and political observers showed uneasiness about several delays in the court verdict and said such things have made the verdict disputed.

Legal experts said the decision could have been announced even after the elections, but it seemed the court made haste in awarding the verdict in ephedrine smuggling case just to oust Hanif Abbasi from the election race.

They said earlier the CNS Court had postponed the hearing in the case till August 2, but LHC’s Rawalpindi Bench had suspended the lower court verdict on a petition filed by a citizen, Shahid Orakzai, and asked the judge to conduct hearing in the case on daily basis from July 16 and wind it up till July 21.

PML-N leaders condemned the court verdict whereas Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, political rival of Abbasi, termed the judgment rule of law.

“The tactic has been used to put NA-60 seat into the lap of a political orphan (Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed), but PML-N will not give up,” said Senator Chaudhry Tanvir Ali Khan during his talk with the media inside the courtroom. He said the leaders and workers of PML-N are united under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif, adding the movement of giving respect to vote would not be stopped after the arrest of Abbasi.

AML President and candidate from NA-60 and NA-62, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed termed the decision against his opponent Hanif Abbasi in ephedrine case as per law, adding it will not affect the election.

“The decision should have been made after the election because I wanted to defeat Hanif Abbasi . However, the court decided the case and awarded sentence as per law. The decision had been pending for six years and it was expected,” he stated, talking to The Nation after the announcement of the decision.

He said the drug pushers had to face the music. He said he was not happy over the decision, but it was expected because as “what you sow so shall you reap”. “Hanif Abbasi was involved in the drug trade and he should face the results,” he said. He added the election process would not be affected and the polls would be held on time. He said now he would face the PPP candidate in the election.

PML-N Metropolitan President Sardar Naseem termed the decision pre-poll rigging, saying it was an attempt to remove the name of PML-N from that seat. “There is no covering candidate of Hanif Abbasi . The PML-N is working to tackle the situation,” he said.

He said the PML-N workers would not end their struggle to respect vote. The narrative of Nawaz Shariif would reach every nook and corner of the country, he added. He said the morale of the workers and leaders was high and they would not leave the space for opponents.

Till the filing of this report, the irate leaders and workers of PML-N were protesting against the court verdict.

 

 

Now Hanif Abbasi gets life in jail