PML-N leader Khawaja Asif allowed to cross-examine PM in defamation case

Published January 21, 2022
This combination photo shows Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) and PML-N leader Khawaja Mohammad Asif (R). — Photos: RT screengrab/Reuters
This combination photo shows Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) and PML-N leader Khawaja Mohammad Asif (R). — Photos: RT screengrab/Reuters

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday allowed Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Khawaja Mohammad Asif to cross-examine Prime Minister Imran Khan in connection with the latter’s defamation suit.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah accepted a petition filed by Mr Asif challenging the legality of the statement of the prime minister recorded through a video link in the defamation suit against the PML-N leader’s allegations about misappropriation of funds of Shaukat Khanam Memorial Trust (SKMT).

In his petition, Mr Asif said the additional district and sessions judge (ADSJ) had unilaterally closed his right to cross-examining Mr Khan.

The petition stated that on Dec 17 before the commencement of proceedings, the court was informed that Mr Asif’s counsel was unable to appear because of sickness but the ADSJ recorded the statement of the prime minister in the absence of the defence counsel. It requested the IHC to set aside the ADSJ’s order.

Mr Khan had filed the defamation suit against Mr Asif in 2012 for recovery of Rs10 billion after the latter at a press conference alleged misappropriation of funds and money laundering through the SKMT.

The IHC directed the civil court to conclude the proceedings in two months.

During the course of hearing, Senator Waleed Iqbal, counsel for the prime minister, argued that the ADSJ had closed the right of Mr Asif to cross-examine his client since the former delayed the proceedings on one pretext or the other.

Barrister Haider Rasool, the counsel for Mr Asif, told the court that since 2012 his client had sought adjournment for 28 times while the court adjourned the proceedings on Mr Khan’s request on nearly 50 occasions.

Justice Minallah observed that closing the right to cross-examine was tantamount to denying a fair trial. He allowed the petition with the direction to the ADSJ to conclude the proceedings in 60 days.

Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2022

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