Medicine for flu; man, wife in jail

DUBAI — Iqrar Hussain does not know about the case of British national Tracy Wilkinson. He only knows that his 37-year-old-son and his newly-wed 19-year-old bride are in jail for the past six months for consuming Unani (herbal) medicine without knowing that it contained codiene and morphine. The medicine was prescribed to them in Pakistan.

By A Staff Reporter

Published: Fri 3 Jun 2005, 11:46 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 7:56 PM

Six months ago, the newly-wed couple Qurban and Shazia, were detained at the Silaa border while returning to the UAE, after performing Umrah in Saudi Arabia, for being in possession of reddish brown tablets. Upon investigation, it was found that the pills contained traces of codiene and morphine and the couple was detained.

"It is now six months and the two are to receive their sentence on June 13," says the distraught father, adding: "My son was prescribed the pill for stomach pain and flu and he has been using it for quite sometime now."

Interestingly, the couple flew in with the medicine from Lahore and did not have any problems at Dubai International Airport. They also managed to pass through the border checkpoints to Saudi Arabia and were even cleared through all the checkpoints within that country only to be detained at Silaa.

"We have been running from pillar to post spending money heavily. Authorities at the court and the police station required documents from Pakistan which we have already provided, while the embassy has also issued a document that clears them," says Hussain, who has suffered a financial blow due to the case.

An official from the Pakistan Embassy confirmed that a letter had been issued confirming that the drugs were harmless after different laboratory test results were obtained.

"My son is the only earning member in the family, and we have already spent all our savings to get them released," he says, adding that one of his daughters is due to be married next month. "The case has brought us on the street. We had to leave our house and stay in someone's place because I cannot afford to pay the rent," he said.

According to the report presented on December 2, 2004, by the Forsenic Science Laboratory of the Traffic Police Department at Abu Dhabi Police GHQ, 18 tablets (dark brown in colour) were tested and traces of the drugs were found in them. Traces of the drugs were also found in the urine samples of both Qurban and Shazia. Drugs containing codiene are strictly banned in the UAE and can only be obtained on prescription. The report also said that the drugs were being used for personal use.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, the lawyer handling the case, Tareq H. Serkal said : "The problem with the case is that when the couple were apprehended, the medicine was wrapped in a paper without a label. Though this is a familiar medicine in Pakistan called Shah Zafrani tablets, the medicine contains drugs banned in UAE. I have rested my case and the judgment will be passed on June 13." "The normal kind of punishment in such cases rests on the evidence produced and the judge’s decision. The minimum punishment is six months while the maximum can extend to four years," he added.

Unani medicine is freely available in Pakistan and 50 or more tablets are available for just Rs35 (Dh2.25). Hakeems (practitioners of traditional medicine) in Pakistan normally do not give the medicine in labelled bottles, and wrap it in paper to save additional costs.


The Unani system of medicine was introduced by Arabs in the Indian subcontinent. In this system of medicine, single drugs or their combinations in raw form are preferred over compound formulation. Unani medicine got enriched by imbibing what was best in contemporary systems of traditional medicine in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Persia, India, China and other Middle East and Far East countries.

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