Imran prepares pitch for legal battle

ISLAMABAD, Aug 7: Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), the opposition parties engaged these days in a war of words, are about to enter a legal battle as Imran Khan announced on Tuesday that he would sue PML-N leader Khwaja Asif for levelling ‘false allegations’ against him and his charity hospital.

“I request the chief justice to take up this case immediately as elections are near and the PML-N wants to run its whole campaign by targeting the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital,” Mr Khan said at a press conference at his party’s central secretariat.

He said the petition would be filed in a day or two.

“I will request the chief justice to take up the issue in the national interest. If allegations of Khwaja Asif are true then proceed against me,” he offered. He said that he had already taken another PML-N legislator Hanif Abbasi to court for accusing the directors of his cancer hospital of drawing heavy salaries, but the case was still pending.

Welcoming Mr Khan’s move to adopt a legal course, PML-N’s lawmaker from Sialkot Khwaja Asif said he would anxiously await a legal notice.

Talking to Dawn, the PML-N stalwart, who had last week accused Mr Khan of committing ‘money-laundering’ and ‘gambling’ on charity funds meant for SKMH, asked Mr Khan “not to malign the SKMH Trust by taking political refuge behind the esteemed institution”.

“Save the country’s largest charity organisation from the PML-N’s propaganda,” Mr Khan appealed to Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and said he feared the PML-N could go to the extent of destroying the SKMH projects only to achieve its political objectives.

He alleged that the PML-N had intentionally chosen Ramazan to financially damage the SKMH as the trust collected Zakat and donations mostly during this month.

The PTI chief said the PML-N had launched a fresh attack on his party at a time when it was about to launch a protest campaign against the government on the issue of loadshedding.

Mr Khan said the SKMH spent Rs2 billion annually on the treatment of the poor and deserving cancer patients.

The PTI chief regretted that PML-N President Nawaz Sharif had not yet responded to the 11 questions he had put last week.

He accused Mr Sharif of hiding behind his party’s leaders like Khwaja Asif and Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.

He said that while the Sharifs had built factories for their own benefit, he had set up institutions like SKMH and Namal College. He said he was planning to open two more hospitals, one in Karachi and the other in Peshawar.

He said he had already responded to allegations levelled by Chaudhry Nisar by showing record of his tax returns of the last 30 years but Nawaz Sharif had not responded to any of the allegations against him.

The PTI chief said the allegations levelled by the PML-N leaders had affected the fund collection for “Pakistan’s biggest charity hospital and if this continues thousands of patients will be affected”. PML-N’s Khwaja Asif had accused Imran Khan of using Zakat funds for personal gains and investing around Rs630 million in offshore companies which suffered losses.

He had also accused the PTI chief of ‘gambling’ $12.5 million in the real estate abroad.

Mr Khan said the PML-N leader would have to prove that the endowment fund of the SKMH Trust had been established with the Zakat fund.

He clarified that 35 per cent of the donations for his hospital came from abroad and part of it was placed in the endowment fund.

The PTI chief said he could not be accused of money laundering since he had put all the details of the investments on the audit sheets.

He claimed that his trust had already received 10 per cent profit on its investments.

When contacted, Khwaja Asif refuted Mr Khan’s assertion that the PML-N was targeting his charity institution for political gains.

“At no time I attacked or intended to attack the esteemed SKMH. My basic objective is to highlight a transaction which was made into a trustee’s company which raises in my opinion the question of conflict of interest and improper corporate governance,” Mr Asif said.

About Mr Khan’s allegation that the PML-N had targeted his hospital in Ramazan to affect its donations, Mr Asif said there was no ulterior motive to harm the institution for which he and his leadership had also made contributions.

“It has nothing to do with Ramazan. The allegations existed much before Ramazan and it will keep on haunting Imran in future as well,” he said.

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