PM Imran testifies online in case against PML-N leader Khawaja Asif

Published December 18, 2021
This combination photo shows Prime Minister Imran Khan and PML-N leader Khawaja Mohammad Asif. — RT screengrab/Reuters
This combination photo shows Prime Minister Imran Khan and PML-N leader Khawaja Mohammad Asif. — RT screengrab/Reuters

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday testified before an additional district and sessions judge through video link from his office in a defamation suit he had filed against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Khawaja Mohammad Asif nine years ago.

While recording his statement before the digitally connected court, which was presided over by additional district and sessions judge Mohammad Adnan, Prime Minister Khan said the allegations levelled by the PML-N leader about misappropriation of and money laundering through the funds of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust (SKMT) caused a loss of at least Rs10 billion to him.

Mr Asif had made the allegations at a press conference at Punjab House before repeating them in the evening during a TV programme.

In his suit, PM Khan referred to the August 1, 2012 press conference at which the PML-N leader had alleged that PTI chief had lost in ‘real estate gambling’ a huge amount of fund donated to the SKMT in the form of Zakat, Fitrana or other kinds of donations.

Demands Rs10bn damages for SKMT’s fund misappropriation allegations

Terming the allegations “false and defamatory”, the PM said decisions on the SKMT hospital’s investment schemes were made by an expert committee without his interference.

During his presser, the PML-N leader had stated that $4.5 million funds of SKMT had been invested abroad.

“If the investment was safe, then why Mr Khan had not invested his own money in the ventures,” wondered Mr Asif, demanding a response from him to clear the allegations.

In his plea, Mr Khan contended that the PML-N leader had made false statements “deliberately and maliciously” intended to cause harm to his reputation within and outside Pakistan. The plea mentioned that Mr Asif during the presser had compared petitioner with “Double Shah”, a notorious fraudster who had deprived people of their hard-earned savings by extracting funds on the basis of false representations.

While testifying before the court through a video link from his office, the PM on Friday stated he was the biggest individual donor of the SKMT from 1991 to 2009 and the investments, against which allegations had been made, were fully recovered by the SKMT without any loss.

Senator Waleed Iqbal, counsel for the premier, was present in the courtroom.

Mr Khan through an affidavit stated that fabricated and baseless allegations were used to undermine the confidence of the people in the SKMT. “I conservatively estimate that, for purpose of money compensation, the extent of the damage, injury and loss caused to me due to above-mentioned defamatory statements by the defendant [Khawaja Asif] is Rs10 billion. As a result of the false, misleading and highly defamatory statements made by the defendant, a large segment of the population was misled into believing these false allegations. Many people contacted me and others entrusted with the affairs of SKMT, and expressed their reservations and concerns,” the affidavit said.

“The SKMT donors started seeking clarifications from me regarding the allegations. These false and defamatory statements lowered my reputation in the estimation of many people, who were misled into believing these statements…it created doubt in the minds of people about my financial integrity and the dealings of SKMT,” added Mr Khan’s affidavit.

PM Khan apprised the court that the SKMT was running a “unique and the only free cancer treatment hospital” in the world. “It is unfortunate to make baseless and fabricated allegations against a welfare body,” he added.

He expressed confidence that the court would pass an exemplary verdict on the baseless case and set a precedent.

Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2021

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