LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) acquitted PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi on Wednesday in the long-pending ephedrine quota case and overturned the trial court’s life imprisonment verdict against the former National Assembly member.
Hanif, who was charged with smuggling and misuse of ephedrine, had contested the trial court’s decision for his life imprisonment after the prosecution successfully proved the allegations.
A day ago, a division bench presided over by Justice Aalia Neelum reserved its decision.
During the proceedings, the bench raised questions about the legality of the case and argued that the mere possession of ephedrine does not constitute guilt if it is not misused.
The law officer conceded that no allegations of smuggling could be substantiated against Abbasi. The petitioner’s counsel argued that his client had been intentionally embroiled in a ‘politically motivated’ and fabricated case in 2018 by the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF), solely to humiliate him.
The Control of Narcotics Substances (CNS) court in Rawalpindi had sentenced Abbasi to life imprisonment. An appeal was filed against this decision, and in the meantime, the LHC suspended the implementation of the punishment, leading to Abbasi’s release.
The petitioner’s lawyer argued that the ephedrine quota had been allocated to 28 companies, and an investigation into the excessive issuance of the quota was initiated against his client. Additionally, allegations were made that Abbasi was involved in drug peddling.
The bench inquired whether any action had been taken against those who allocated the excessive quota, to which the petitioner’s lawyer responded affirmatively.
Interestingly, only seven companies were named in the First Information Report (FIR), while the rest were absolved of any wrongdoing. However, the trial court imposed a life sentence on Abbasi without delving into the facts or applying judicial discretion.
The petitioner requested LHC to annul the trial court’s sentence.
In July 2018, the Control of Narcotics Substances (CNS) court sentenced Hanif Abbasi to life imprisonment in the ephedrine quota case. At that time, Abbasi was contesting elections against Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid from NA-60 (Rawalpindi).
Judge Sardar Muhammad Akram delivered the verdict, finding Abbasi guilty of illegally selling 500kg of ephedrine to narcotics smugglers. He also imposed a fine of Rs1 million on the PML-N leader. The court acquitted seven other accused in the case, giving them the benefit of the doubt.
In a media talk following his acquittal, Abbasi expressed his gratitude to God and praised the wisdom of three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif. He noted that his great leader had predicted in 2012 that the case against him was nothing but a fabricated one. He acknowledged that during this ordeal, his family had faced significant hardship, with his brother being unlawfully detained and his daughter losing her job.
Abbasi went on to affirm that the PML-N would warmly welcome their leader on October 21 and that no one could diminish the public’s love and respect for Nawaz Sharif.