- Pakistan had suspended bilateral trade last month after India's decision to terminate its special status in Indian-administered Kashmir.
- The Pakistani pharmaceutical industry imports its raw materials mostly from India or China.
- A senior health ministry official said that the government has made this difficult decision on a humanitarian basis.
On Tuesday, Pakistan announced a lifting of the ban on imports of life-saving drugs from India. With the approval of the Federal Government, the Ministry of Commerce has issued a notification for amending the Export-Import Order 2016, under which Pakistan will now be able to import life-saving medicines from India and export to India.
Pakistan has allowed the trade of life-saving drugs from India on humanitarian grounds, a trade ministry official said. Pakistan had suspended bilateral trade last month after India’s decision to terminate its special status in Indian-administered Kashmir. Drugs that had been banned are used for diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, blood pressure, TB and cancer, while India is the only source of the antibiotic chemical used in TB medicine.
Demands of Pakistani Pharmaceuticals
After the demands of the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, the reduction of medicines, and the increase in prices, the government had to decide whether the chemicals coming from India should be allowed to come to Pakistan. Except for India, raw materials for medicines should be procured from other countries.
On the other hand, the Association demanded that if the government did not allow the import of raw materials from India, subsidies would be given on raw materials imported from China. At the same time, there was a demand that the government, along with China and other countries, should simplify the import procedures and paperwork for the pharmaceutical industry.
How much raw material does India get for medicine?
The Pakistani pharmaceutical industry imports its raw materials mostly from India or China. Amjad Ali Java, former chairman of the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, told news reporters a few days ago that “it is true that India accounts for about 50% of the raw material used in pharmaceuticals made in Pakistan.”
He said that there are 820 chemicals that are part of Pakistan’s imports because those chemicals are not manufactured in Pakistan. There are more than 62 such chemicals for which Pakistan relies heavily on India, of which about 23 are chemicals used in life-saving medicine.
There are at least 65 chemicals for which Pakistan relies less on India. According to Amjad Ali Java, non-availability of medicines in the market and increase in prices of medicines is due to the closure of trade as well as due to high demand from some famous and specific brands by the patients.
The background of the decision
After India terminated its special status in Kashmir, Pakistan cut off all trade relations with India. That prevented raw materials and chemicals coming from India, used in various medicines, from entering Pakistan. According to the pharmaceutical industry, due to this restriction, the supply of these medicines declined, while the price of most life-saving medicines in Pakistan increased.
In a meeting between Federal Minister for Health Dr. Zafar Mirza and a delegation of the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association last week, the two sides raised their concerns and discussed the issue. They agreed on the need for a solution as soon as possible.
A senior health ministry official said that the government has made this difficult decision on a humanitarian basis. He said that the issue was discussed in detail in a Federal Cabinet meeting, and after that, it was decided that the ban on life-saving drugs should be suspended. Now Pakistan will also import these medicines from India and there will be no restrictions on export.