20m masks 'exported' to China as coronavirus stares Pakistan in the eye

Officials accused of receiving Rs 60m in bribe for issuing export NOCs

By: News Desk      Published: 05:52 PM, 28 Feb, 2020
20m masks 'exported' to China as coronavirus stares Pakistan in the eye
AFP Photo

As Pakistanis run from post to pillar to get masks amid coronavirus fears, the authorities have been accused of playing with the health of its people by sending millions of masks to China.

The accusation has come from the Young Pharmacist Association, which said the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) and health ministry sent 20 million face masks to the neighbouring country.

In a letter to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, the association claimed that DRAP CEO Asim Rauf, deputy director’s son Ghazanfar Ali and PM’s Special Assistant on Health Dr Zafar Mirza issued six permits to for the export of face masks to China.

The association also accused the officials of receiving Rs60 million in bribe for issuing the six NOCs.

Market sources had revealed a few days ago that face masks were being bought on a large scale from Lahore's Shah Alam Market and other wholesale markets around the country for exporting them to China.

Interestingly, most of these face masks were imported from China before the outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan.

And, now the Chinese have bought them back by offering a lucrative profit to the Pakistani importers.

Condemning government connivance in all of this, the Young Pharmacist Association said that this has created a critical shortage of face masks in Pakistan at a time when the deadly pandemic has already found its way into the country. 

“Even hospital staff and cops are not getting protection,” the letter said. “When doctors, nurses and paramedical staffers are not being protected, how will they treat patients?” read the letter sent to the CJP.

The DRAP CEO confirmed to a local media channel, Samaa TV, that the authority issued five permits to export the masks to China. But he did not offer any comments on the bribery accusation.

“First there were restrictions, but then on the request of the Chinese Embassy, five NOCs were issued,” Asim Rauf was quoted as saying.

“They were given through a proper mechanism, not randomly,” he added.

The CEO said China has always stood by Pakistan in difficult times.

“Prime Minister [Imran Khan] had also assured [China of] the country’s support.”

In its letter to CJP, the association quoted Rauf as saying earlier that “if you would give me any evidence that a single face mask has been sent out of Pakistan, we will take exemplary action against the accused”. However, when the association provided evidence of masks being exported, he said permits were issued for the export.

According to the pharmacists association, the permits were issued on February 8, a day after it took up the matter with DRAP CEO.