Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif has filed a defamation suit against Mail on Sunday newspaper, Mail Online and journalist David Rose in the London High Court for the publication of a “gravely defamatory” story in 2019.
In July 2019, Daily Mail published a story about alleged embezzlement of earthquake funds provided by UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) for the rehabilitation of the victims.
It quoted Assets Recovery Unit chief Shahzad Akbar and a few other individuals to make its case against then chief minister Shehbaz Sharif.
The PML-N was quick to refute the story and alleged that the story was published in the British tabloid at the behest of Imran Khan, the prime minister. It was also rejected by DFID, which said the body’s “robust systems protected UK taxpayers from fraud”.
Addressing a press conference on Thursday, the PML-N said his legal notice to The Mail on Sunday and online news site Mail Online and Rose was not fruitful as “a copy of the article is still available online”, forcing him to sue the media house.
Speaking at the press conference, Shehbaz said that had there been any concrete evidence against him, “Imran Khan would not have started the frivolous proceedings in Ashiana Housing Scheme against me, he would have filed a case on this matter. The Lahore High Court’s acceptance of my bail plea is proof that the Ashiana case does not hold any merit”.
Alasdair Pepper and Antonia Foster from Carter-Ruck are representing the former Punjab CM and also flanked the PML-N president during the presser.
Speaking about the presser, Pepper said that the defamation suit has been initiated and the London High Court is expected to take the matter up any time within this year. He said that the article as well as the “social media campaign [against Shehbaz] launched by Rose was highly defamatory”.
A statement by the law firm said that Shehbaz, “as a leading politician and public figure in Pakistan”, intends to clear his name. “He seeks the withdrawal of the allegations and an unreserved and unambiguous apology from the Mail’s publisher,” said the statement.