ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development Zulfi Bukhari on Monday filed Rs1 billion defamation suit against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Khawaja Asif over allegations that he used his influence to allow pilgrims from Iran to return to the country via Taftan border without completing proper requirements.
In the notice, Bukhari maintained that Asif — in a media talk outside the Supreme Court on Mar 17 — had alleged that Bukhari “was responsible for allowing a flood of Zaireen [to enter Pakistan] from Iran without any quarantine or isolation as required by law and social responsibility norms”.
“You have essentially blamed me for the spread of the coronavirus,” Bukhari said in his notice, adding that Asif later tweeted that those responsible for the coronavirus deaths in the country were Prime Minister Imran Khan, his aide Dr Zafar Mirza, Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar and Zulfi Bukhari.
Government inaction is causing faster spreading of Coronavirus in Pak than even Italy. IK, Zafar Mirza, Zulfi Bukhari and Buzdar are directly responsible for the deaths that will result. Their hands are soaked in blood
— Khawaja M. Asif (@KhawajaMAsif) March 22, 2020
“By making and disseminating these defamatory statements […] you have inevitably injured my standing both at home and abroad. [The allegations] are likely to cause me financial loss, but also risk me being stigmatised and shunned in social circles,” the statement reads.
Bukhari has directed Asif to “withdraw, recall and retract the defamatory imputations”, in addition to making a public apology “to be broadcast and disseminated prominently” and “post the same on all online platforms and websites on which the [allegations] were posted”.
The notice also called for Asif to publish a contradiction to the defamatory statement and imputation. “setting out the correct, factual position”.
A failure to do all three within 14 days will result in legal proceedings against Asif, the notification added.
Earlier, Asif had said that his lawyer would respond to Bukhari’s legal notice once he received it.
Speaking to a private media outlet, the PML-N leader had said it was not just him who was making the allegations against Bukhari. “The whole country is now saying this,” he said.
“Even one of his [Bukhari’s] relatives said this,” Asif had added.