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The Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Wednesday refused to accept a verbal apology from News One Anchorperson Dr Shahid Masood for his startling allegations against the convicted rapist and murderer of six-year-old Zainab in Kasur.

The anchorperson had claimed during a late night show in January that convict Imran Ali was a member of a pornography gang which also includes a Punjab minister. During earlier hearings of the case, Masood had also told the court that the suspect has 37 foreign accounts.

The court today told Dr Masood that it was too late now to apologise after a joint investigation team (JIT) probing his allegations revealed last week that all 18 of the claims made by the anchorperson were false and baseless, and that there was no evidence for any of the allegations made by him.

"In your programme you said that you should be hanged if your allegations are proven incorrect," Justice Nisar reminded the anchorperson.

Dr Masood's counsel said that his client was prepared to do whatever the court asked of him. Following this, the anchorperson verbally apologised twice, but the court refused to accept his apologies.

"Some people had suggested you should apologise in [an earlier hearing in] Lahore," the CJP said. "The time for an apology has now passed," Justice Nisar said, adding that Dr Masood could continue contesting the case if he wished.

The CJP said that justice would be served in the case, and sought a reply from TV channel News One, adjourning the case until March 12.

Imran Ali, who was convicted in the rape and murder of Zainab Amin by an Anti-terrorism Court in February had appealed to the Lahore High Court against the verdict that handed him death penalty on four counts, pleading not guilty to the offences.

Earlier this week, Imran Ali was formally nominated in the rape and murder cases of seven other children in Kasur, after an earlier DNA test of the suspect revealed his DNA was a match with samples recovered from the crime scenes in the seven cases prior to Zainab's.

The investigation officer probing the cases had told the ATC that the suspect kidnapped, raped and killed a total of eight girls over the last year or so.

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