Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Hanif Abbasi was given life imprisonment in the ephedrine quota case by an anti-narcotics court in Rawalpindi on Saturday night.
Abbasi was arrested from the premises of the court soon after the sentence was announced. The court, however, acquitted seven other accused in the case.
Initial reports suggest that Abbasi will be sent to Adiala jail, the same prison where former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz are serving their sentences in the Avenfield reference.
A ruckus was witnessed outside the court as PML-N supporters chanted slogans following the announcement of the verdict.
Abbasi was to contest upcoming general election against Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid from Rawalpindi’s NA-60 constituency on PML-N’s ticket. However, with today’s verdict he will be automatically disqualified from contesting any polls.
The verdict was announced by Judge Sardar Muhammad Akram. The other accused were acquitted on the basis of ‘benefit of doubt’ in the case.
The case involves illegal allocation of ephedrine quotas worth Rs7 billion to two pharmaceutical companies – Berlex Lab International and Danas Pharmaceutical. Other than Abbasi, son of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Ali Musa Gilani and former health minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin were accused in the case.
Abbasi was booked in the case (41/2012) registered under sections 9(c), 15 and 16 of the Control of Narcotics Substances Act, 1997. The FIR was lodged on the complaint of Lt Colonel Syed Tauqeer Abbasi Zaidi posted at the Anti-Narcotics Force’s Rawalpindi directorate police station. The applicant submitted that he was avoiding arrest as the case against him was registered with mala fide intent.
The ANF in the investigations had declared that Hanif Abbasi obtained 500kg ephedrine for manufacturing medicines in 2010 but instead sold the chemical to narcotics smugglers.
On July 11, LHC had directed the anti-narcotics court to fix daily hearings for the case and pass judgment by July 21.
Abbasi’s main political rival Sheikh Rashid lauded the verdict, saying ‘you reap what you sow’.
PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal strongly criticised the verdict calling it a stain on transparency of upcoming elections. “Issuing a verdict with just three days left for elections raises several questions,” he added.
Imran Khan, while addressing a public gathering, congratulated people of Lahore on the verdict. “Rumi once said that a nation dies morally and then financially when it fails to correct the right from wrong,” he was quoted by Express News as saying.
PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif reacted strongly, saying: “The timing and manner of judgement of Hanif Abbasi clearly shows a discriminatory attitude towards PML-N, targeting our party on the eve of the polls when PML-N is on the verge of winning the polls.”