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Friday, July 19, 2024

The suffering of masses by fake medicines

The author discusses how fake medicines distributed in Pakistan claimed the lives of hundreds. Even though many people died, no one was held accountable. The author is of the view that a lack of exemplary punishments in Pakistan has emboldened people to commit crimes.

While coordinating relief work at the Domestic Cargo section at Karachi airport during the 2005 earthquake, I encountered various traders who would send bulk aid to affected areas through free cargo service offered by PIA.

One of those groups were a few members of the medicine business with whom I grew friendly and intimated enough to know about the mass trading of fake medicines, being a normal phenomenon with them.

The same converted, later in December 2011, into the tragic incident of Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) spurious medicine case of contaminated cardiovascular drugs that claimed more than 100 lives. Then in November 2012, another major case of medicine quality failure occurred, causing the death of hundreds of people after ingesting contaminated cough syrup.

Read more: What made lawyers attack Punjab Institute of Cardiology?

Complacency towards culprits

These two major incidences gained national as well as international attention followed by Sri Lanka banning its import of medicines from Pakistan as a precautionary measure. Moreover, the World Health Organization issued a global drug safety alert (no.125) calling for increased vigilance on the use of Isotab manufactured by Pakistani manufacturer.

This caused cutting short of lives of hundreds of people in Pakistan as well as brought bad name to the country internationally but we never heard of any exemplary punishment that we can recall. And this complacency has emboldened them.

Read more: Pakistan’s biggest issue is rule of law not corruption

Now seeing the opportunity of massive scare by Covid-19 pandemic, these unafraid traders can play again with lives of people in Pakistan as they were never experienced exemplary punishments even during the aftermath of the above two lethal incidents while in other parts of the world, millions of dollars (and in a few cases billions) of US fines are imposed for violating safety measures let alone the deaths that happened in our country.

Lack of exemplary punishments

Consequent to those two incidents, Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) condemned that a lapse in quality control while acquiring medicines was the main reason for the deaths caused by a drug reaction and demanded the governments to establish a drug regulatory authority which was so established.

Some others suggested that capacity building and increased HR resources are mandatory but the real cause is the absence of exemplary punishments awarded in time judiciously.

I always believe that the most distracting factor is the lies that are used in our prosecution as well as defence, making it hard to lead to the conviction and making the cases much longer to be decided.

Read more: Strengthening rule of law through speedy convictions & election reforms

A Qambar-Shahdadkot Model Court Judge, on the 15th of January, 2021, sentenced a man to death for killing a woman Murad Khatoon Brohi and her son Muhammad Baksh in Sujawal, Sindh, after 20 years of the crime. And sadly no one is taken to task for those endemic lies causing decades for justice.

As per the website of the Law & Justice Commission of Pakistan, there were 2,186,113 court cases pending as of 30th November 2020 in Pakistan. The results are borne by the whole nation.

The culprits in Pakistan never get exemplary punishment rather our judicial system is seen as a trap hence people take the law into their own hands and all the chaos happens as the rampant forging of documents, erasing, defacing, mutilating evidence, all go unpunished.

Read more: Pakistan Towards 2030 – Desperate need for legal and judicial reforms

The remedy

The law against lying in the courts is hardly sought for. As per media reports in the year 2018, during a Judicial Reforms hearing, the Sindh High Court Registrar submitted that the courts in Sindh have not trialled even a single case over the past three years for perjury (the offence of willfully telling an untruth or making a misrepresentation under oath) that can be prosecuted under relevant provisions of Pakistan Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

It is suggested that launching an Insaaf Complaint portal in line with Citizen Portal for people to come up (even anonymously) with information on lies, wrong witnesses, forging of documents, erasing, defacing or mutilating evidence etc being committed especially in our Judiciary system.

This will send fear among all and the ratio of prolonging cases will be reduced to a considerable period and vices can be arrested. Let’s build a just society for our children.

Mushtaq Jumma is an Ex-Airliner and Business Consultant. The views expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.