ISLAMABAD - Following the disposal of bail plea by the Rawalpindi Bench of Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday, two high-profile accused in the ephedrine scam Ali Musa Gilani and Federal Minister for Textile Makhdoom could be arrested anytime, officials of Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) said.

Earlier, the LHC Rawalpindi Bench – comprising Justice Ibad-ur-Rehman Lodhi and Justice Khawaja Imtiaz Ahmed - dismissed the bail plea of the two PPP stalwarts and remarked that they misused their positions. The judges also observed that the extra-ordinary relief of pre-arrest bail could not be extended to the two accused at the crucial stage of the case. The bench had reserved the verdict on August 29.

Although, Shahabuddin and Ali Musa, son of former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani, have gone into ‘hibernation’ after the court disposed of their bail pleas, sources in the ANF told TheNation that ANF chief Brigadier Fahim, regarded by his colleagues and staff as ‘a man of principal and integrity’, directed his team to trace and arrest the accused on a priority basis.

“We have been directed to trace and arrest the accused, believed to be hiding somewhere in the federal capital, at any cost,” an inspector of the ANF’s raiding team informed told TheNation, adding that they were expected to arrest the accused without any help from the Islamabad Police.”

Ali Musa and Shahabuddin are accused of pressurising officials of the Health Ministry in 2010 to allocate huge quotas of controlled chemical ephedrine to two pharmaceutical companies. Both of them could be arrested anytime as the ANF team is vigorously raiding suspected places to arrest them, sources said.

“We are continuously raiding suspected places to arrest the prime accused Ali Musa Gilani in the ephedrine quota scam. Although, we are facing some problems in arresting him, however, we expect to get hold of both of the accused soon,” an ANF official told The Nation.

Sources in Ministry of Narcotics Control told this scribe that the Islamabad Police was not cooperating with the ANF raiding team in locating and arresting Ali Musa and Shahabuddin, who were believed to be hiding in the federal capital.

In the past, officials of ANF told their bosses about non-cooperation of Islamabad Police to arrest the accused. Brigadier Fahim had told the Supreme Court about bureaucratic hurdles to arrest the high profile accused. It is pertinent to mention that the ANF or any law enforcement agency is bound to take permission from the Islamabad Police to arrest any accused suspected to be living within its jurisdiction.

The ephedrine quota scam involves the violation of rules while awarding a contract to import 9,000 kg ephedrine to two companies allegedly under the influence of Ali Musa, while Shahabuddin, as the then federal minister for health, approved the quota. This substance is used to synthesis medicines for cold, flu and asthma but is also used in some dangerous drugs as heroin.

The matter was raised in the National Assembly in 2009 and the then health minister had formed a committee to give recommendations. Following the directives of Supreme Court, which ordered a free and fair probe, the ANF quizzed Musa Gilani last month, but he denied the allegations leveled against him and assured the investigation team of his readiness to cooperate. However, presently he has gone into hiding.