ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister’s Advisor on Accountability Shahzad Akbar has dismissed claims made by Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) leaders over alleged victory in the defamation case against British newspaper Daily Mail.
In 2019, PML-N President and Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif had served a legal notice on the British daily and its journalist David Rose for accusing him of embezzling public funds.
According to the legal notice, “The article is gravely defamatory of Shehbaz, including false allegations that he misappropriated UK taxpayers’ money in the form of Department for International Development (DFID) aid intended for the victims of the devastating 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. Shehbaz denies these allegations.”
The lawyer representing Daily Mail told the judge in Friday’s hearing that the publication stood by the claims made in its article despite having “pretty limited” evidence against Shehbaz.
Justice Matthew Nicklin was quoted as saying that Chase Level 1 was applied in the case, holding the publisher responsible for proving that Shehbaz is guilty of the act he has been accused of in the article.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad on Saturday, Akbar wondered “how could PML-N win when the legal proceedings of the case only began a day earlier?”
He said the PML-N leaders including Maryam Nawaz started celebrating victory after “first phase of the case” prematurely.
The PM’s aide said the case is currently in its initial stage and further proceedings would be held in which Daily Mail would be asked to present evidence of its allegations against Shehbaz.
Akbar said the PML-N president had vowed to send legal notices to Prime Minister Imran Khan and others in the case but only sued the British daily. He also challenged Shehbaz to sue him in the UK court, vowing to present evidence of his corruption then.
He also quoted David Rose’s statement wherein he also denied the reports that the court had ruled in favour of the PML-N president.
“Contrary to some Pakistani reports, today’s hearing in the Shahbaz Sharif defamation case is strictly preliminary. The judgment sets the parameters for the eventual trial, which lies in the future: it determines what the court says the article means. It is NOT a final outcome,” David said in a tweet on Friday.
Contrary to some Pakistani reports, today's hearing in the Shahbaz Sharif defamation case is strictly preliminary. The judgment sets the parameters for the eventual trial, which lies in the future: it determines what the court says the article means. It is NOT a final outcome.— David Rose (@DavidRoseUK) February 5, 2021
Meanwhile, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb has demanded that Shehbaz Sharif should be immediately released from the prison, saying “London court’s verdict has proved his innocence and also exposed that PM Imran is a certified liar”.
While thanking Almighty Allah over “victory” in the case, Aurangzeb said the premier and his “rented spokespersons” should now seek apology from Shehbaz for tarnishing his image.
She quoted the London court as saying that it declared that Shehbaz was “severely defamed” under British law in the Daily Mail article.
The 2019 Daily Mail article had accused Shehbaz and his family of embezzling millions of pounds out of £500 million aid lent by the Department for International Development (DFID) for earthquake victims.
As soon as the report surfaced, the PML-N termed it a conspiracy against the opposition leader in the National Assembly hatched by the PM Imran-led government.