Pakistan Forced to Remove Ban on Indian Drugs-Another U-Turn!

Pakistan’s permanent representative to UN Heckled
Pakistan’s permanent representative to UN Heckled

In order to avoid a severe medical crisis due to unavailability of life-saving drugs in the local market in Pakistan, the Pakistani government was forced to lift the ban on import of medicines and raw material from India.

After the abrogation of Article 370 by Indian Government on 5th August 2019, there has been huge outrage in Pakistan on what India calls its internal matter. Pakistan since then has been engaging in aggressive posturing on all fronts. It started with claims of a blanket ban on all Indian products being imported in Pakistan.

Considering the dire state of Pakistani economy and its dependence on Indian imported items on Industries like textile, food processing, medicine, and others. Still many in Pakistan lauded this as a brave but necessary move

However, as the reality sinks in and the impact is being realized Pakistan had no option but to lift the ban on essential drugs in India.
The reality check for Pakistan
The reality check for Pakistan

It was on Aug 9 that the Pakistani government had decided to suspend all kinds of trade with India. The pharmaceutical industry in Pakistan had appealed to the government to relax rules and allow Indian goods imported before the decision.

While the government agreed to relax the rules the goods already arrived in Pakistani airports/seaports were consumed in no time. After only around 25 days from the decision to bad Indian medicine along with other exports, Pakistan seemed to have no option but to remove the ban on life-saving, cheap yet effective medicines from India.

Impossibility of the situation

Impossibility of the situation for Pakistani imports
Impossibility of the situation for Pakistani imports

A large number of medicines and raw materials in Pakistan are imported from India, the Pharmaceutical industry in Pakistan started demanding that the ban be lifted on them. Otherwise, it feared, the country could face the severe crisis of medicines, especially life-saving drugs, in a few weeks.

As Pakistani newspaper, Dawn reported Drap ( Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan ) official, requesting anonymity, said a meeting was held last week to discuss the issue. “All stakeholders participated in the meeting and informed it that in a few weeks it would be almost impossible to ensure availability of medicines because the pharmaceutical industry depends on Indian medicines and raw material,” he added.

The official said that in the meeting the government of Pakistan was informed that Indian medicines were available at affordable rates and prices of medicines would escalate if the government did not go for an alternative arrangement.

Followed after these deliberations, was the announcement of from Ministery of Health, Pakistan

“The exemption is given in the best interest of the public and in order to maintain the supply of medicines to patients,”
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza Author

Pakistan’s challenge on banning Indian imports

The reality check for Pakistan
The reality check for Pakistan

The EFP( Employers’ Federation of Pakistan ) is worried that immediate suspension of trade with India without any guideline would severely impact the pharmaceutical manufacturers and result in shortages of medicines in Pakistan.

While they stress on developing indigenous infrastructure to meet domestic demands, given the kind of investment, time and resources required, it seems implausible that there is any other alternative for Pakistan at this moment.

Another Drap official, requesting anonymity, has earlier warned that a number of medicines or their APIs were imported from India and in case of the continued ban, there would be a severe crisis of medicines in the local market.

Moreover, the official said, the government’s decision would result in an increase in smuggling of medicines and APIs and revenue losses in terms of import duties to the national exchequer.

Pakistan, at last, had to take the U-turn again on its measures to end all ties with India after it made a U-turn earlier on banning the Pakistani airspace for Indian planes. Perhaps the realization of enonomical and social cost is dawning among Pakistani authorities.

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