off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid

Punjab Drugs Ordinance

Punjab CM Need to be careful
of foolish friends and advisors


Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Shareef has proved his leadership qualities and the enormous development work which his government has undertaken throughout the province is visible. A large number of development projects have been completed in or before time while many other projects are still under progress. Many new medical colleges have been established; more new medical colleges are planned at Attok, Bahawalnagar and Bhakar. Apart from developing basic infrastructure, improving roads network, transport facilities, the Metro Bus Project, Orange line train in Lahore, numerous educational institutions, and healthcare facilities are being expanded, improved and established in the province. He is known as a hard working Chief Minister who personally monitors the progress of development projects and ensures their timely completion. Hence, the bureaucracy which used to govern from the air-conditioned offices have also been forced to move out in the field which many of them do not like, hence some of these bureaucrats try to create problems for the government from time to time. Major political parties in the country have also always tried to target Mian Shahbaz Shareef in particular for criticism as they cannot digest his progressive development plans and policies. Not only that, performance of the Government of Punjab is much better than all other provincial governments in the country and it has so far also escaped any corruption scandals.

After the PML (N) formed the Government in the Center and in the provinces of Punjab and Baluchistan after 2013 general elections, Mian Nawaz Shareef also seems to have learnt some lessons from his past mistakes and he looks to be a different man. He has tried to accommodate every one and is trying to move along taking all the political forces together urging them to join hands for the economic development of the country and getting rid of the menace of terrorism. The government has been quite successful so far.

Having said all this, despite having numerous qualities the Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Shareef is a human being and no individual is expected to be perfect having knowledge about everything. In certain technical areas, he has to look towards his friends, cabinet colleagues and advisors. There is no Health Minister in Punjab and Kh. Salman Rafique is working as Health Advisor to the Chief Minister. He too is an honest, hard working man who has played a vital role in the campaign against Dengue and no one can challenge his honesty and integrity. But when it comes to pharmaceuticals, production, quality control, campaign against spurious and counterfeit drugs, he lacks the technical knowledge and he as well as the Chief Minister and the whole provincial government has to depend on technical advice. The problem lies here and the Punjab Chief Minister needs to be careful of some of his foolish friends and advisors who keep on creating problems for his government one after the other. At present among all the political parties in Pakistan, Pakistan Muslim League (N) has a much better track record and whenever it came to power, it has undertaken numerous development projects and improved the country’s economy. No political party and politician in Pakistan including “Dharna Khan” seems to be capable of giving any tough time to the PML (N) but it can suffer greater set backs and lose its vote bank due to its own follies.

Earlier the corrupt officials and the vested interests joined hands to destroy the indigenous Interferon production plan in the country initiated by Dr.Riazuddin an eminent research scientist at Punjab University. Had it materialized, the country would have saved Billions of rupees annually which are being spent on the import of expensive Interferon preparations. The matter came under discussion in the Parliament, special Parliamentary committee and even the Senate but the vested interests were so powerful that they managed to have their way and destroyed the whole project. Even the Prime Minister was requested to take note of it but it appears “Mian Brothers” have no time to listen to saner elements in the medical profession and other professional trade organizations. Had they listened to eminent physicians like Prof. Kh. Saadiq Husain, this indigenous Interferon production plan would have materialized but since Mian Brothers are surrounded by sycophants and praise singers, they cannot find time to listen to the professionals who really matters. The Nation will never forgive Mian Brothers for this tragedy whereby not only the country lost a great opportunity to produce indigenous Interferon at a very low cost and become self sufficient but could have also saved precious foreign exchange spent on its import.

And now comes the Punjab Drugs Ordinance. Whosoever has advised the Punjab Chief Minister to promulgate this Ordinance is not his friend and well wisher. Not only that, he or she is also an enemy of the country. No one will doubt the good intentions of Punjab Chief Minister who wishes to eliminate the menace of spurious and counterfeit drugs which is indeed laudable but they way this campaign has been initiated is not at all in the right direction. It appears Mian Shahbaz Shareef has not yet forgotten the Punjab Institute of Cardiology tragedy in which more than one hundred fifty precious lives were lost. Apart from the error and negligence at the licensed drug manufacturer, it was also the result of the whole system failure because the pharmacists working in the stores in the PIC, the drug regulators responsible for ensuring quality of drugs and the physicians treating the patients all failed to perform their duties. Had they been careful and investigated the adverse effects immediately, they would have discontinued the drug and thus saved many lives. If such system flaws are not corrected, there is no guarantee that such an incident won’t occur again.

 There is no denying the fact that spurious and counterfeit drugs are being produced by certain elements and the law enforcing agencies along with members of the drug regulatory authority should have raided those hide outs which are functioning and flourishing under the patronage of these very corrupt Drug Inspectors and officials of the drug regulatory authority. The chemists and druggists are the main culprits who buy and sell these spurious and counterfeit drugs from these spurious drug manufacturers just to make more money. If the Chemists and Druggists purchase drugs and medicines from the licensed drug manufacturers or their distributors, they will have a Warranty and in case of any mishap, the concerned drug manufacturers can be proceeded against. However, it is the responsibility of the Drug Inspectors and Drug Regulatory authorities to ensure that all the chemist shops have proper storage facilities and drugs are kept at the desired temperature. No businessman would be foolish enough to spend millions and billions of rupees to set up a drug manufacturing plant, get a license after proper inspection and then produce sub-standard drugs intentionally. This is done by the criminal elements who are working under the patronage of corrupt drug control administration and Drugs Inspectors. In fact the government should prosecute its own corrupt drug regulatory staff and the raids should have been conducted on the hideouts of spurious and counterfeit drug manufacturers. However, harassing licensed drug manufacturers is bringing a bad name to the country and it will adversely affect Pakistan’s Drugs Export business at a time when the Pakistan Pharma Industry is trying its best to increase its drugs exports finding new markets. Provincial Government of Punjab, it appears, does not know the adverse effects of its childish actions seeking cheap publicity.

It is high time that “Mian Brothers” wake up and listen to their well wishers and sympathizers. Take the PPMA leadership, other professional bodies into confidence and then plan action against spurious and counterfeit drug manufacturers. The industry will extend its whole hearted support for such actions.

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