LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan has told a court that one of his friends had told him that someone known to him and also the Sharif family had approached him with an offer to pay billions of rupees if he could convince him (Khan) to stop pursuing the Panama Papers case before the Supreme Court.
In a written reply submitted in response to a defamation suit filed in 2017 by Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif, Mr Khan said he disclosed the incident for the consumption of the public at large and in the interest of the public good which does not constitute any defamation.
“The narration of the incident is neither baseless nor unfounded as it is based on the occurrence of an incident, i.e. the visit of Mr Omar Farooq and his relaying of the offer,” states the reply of the prime minister filed by his legal team on Tuesday before a sessions court.
The reply further states that Mr Khan did not specifically attribute any statement to the plaintiff (Shehbaz) while narrating the incident. It says the plaintiff and the defendant are political rivals and have been facing each other in the political arena for more than two decades. Shehbaz himself made numerous defaming and malicious statements against Mr Khan, leaders of PTI and other political parties in the past.
The prime minister in his reply reiterated that the narration of the incident had been relayed in the public interest, in a fair manner and is in no way an assertion which was factually wrong or malicious.
Mr Khan asks the court to dismiss the suit as Shehbaz is not entitled to any damages.
In his reply, the prime minster also challenges the territorial jurisdiction of the court to hear the suit.
Previously, the legal team of Mr Khan had also questioned the territorial jurisdiction of the court, however, withdrew the same.
Additional District and Sessions Judge Mudassir Farid adjourned further hearing of the suit till Aug 4.
The legal counsel for Shehbaz requested the court to issue frames on the next hearing.
The defamation suit states that Khan uttered false and malicious statements against Shehbaz that the latter offered Rs10 billion to the former through a common friend in exchange of withdrawing the case of Panama Papers pending before the Supreme Court. It says the plaintiff served a legal notice on the defendant asking him to tender a proper apology within 14 days through print and electronic media. However, the defendant failed to make an apology and the plaintiff was left with no option but to approach the court for recovery of damages.
The suit pleads that the baseless and defamatory statements by the defendant widely circulated by media lowered the integrity of the plaintiff and caused him extreme mental torture, agony and anxiety. The court has been requested to issue a decree for recovery of Rs10 billion as compensation for the publication of defamatory content in favour of the plaintiff.
Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2021