• Claims paper’s allegations made on behest of Imran, Shahzad Akbar
• PTI removes UK official for defending PM’s son-in-law

LONDON: A day after a British newspaper issued an apology and retracted a story defaming Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, a jubilant Nawaz Sharif hailed the outcome of the defamation case and said there was no ‘bigger proof of his innocence’.

He was referring to the removal of an article by British conservative newspaper Mail on Sunday, which had alleged in 2019 that Shehbaz had siphoned off British aid money meant for earthquake victims.

Speaking to journalists at PML-N’s London office Stanhope House, the party supremo hit out at former prime minister Imran Khan and his former accountability aide Shahzad Akbar for “levelling baseless allegations” against the Sharif family.

“The biggest newspaper here, the Daily Mail, has apologised that their report [against Shehbaz] was false and they were unable to find any evidence to support their allegations. These allegations were based on what Imran Khan and Shahzad Akbar said.”

He added, “Pakistan and its politicians were disgraced both in the country and outside [during the PTI government]. Now the Daily Mail has apologised after a UK court case.”

“Together with [former IHC chief justice] Shaukat Siddiqi and [accountability court judge] Arshad Malik’s revelations and [former chief justice] Saqib Nisar’s audio leaks, these are all evidence of our innocence.”

He said even the UK’s National Crime Agency gave a “clean chit” to Mr Shehbaz.

He was referring to a 17-month-long probe into the Sharif family’s assets and the temporary freezing of the bank accounts of the prime minister and his son Suleman Shehbaz. A UK court eventually ordered the unfreezing of the accounts when the NCA found no evidence of wrongdoing against them.

“This [story] was part of a conspiracy to ruin the reputations of the political leadership,” Mr Sharif said.

He also criticised PTI Chairman Imran Khan and said that he should think twice before accusing others of corruption.

He [Mr Khan] was a man steeped in corruption from head to toe – how can he accuse others?“

“These are not just allegations against him but also proof,” he claimed.

Mr Sharif appeared in high spirits, as he spoke to reporters both inside the office and on his way to the building.

He added that a PM of a country of 220 million was removed because he did not take a salary from his son.

“Now look at the state of Pakistan. In 2017, Pakistan was thriving. The prices of daily goods were in check and there was no load shedding. Now, the poor are crushed, in three years everything has been destroyed.”

PTI removes UK official

It also emerged on Saturday that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf had removed the deputy secretary of the party’s Office of International Chapters Barrister Waheedur Rehman Mian for representing Imran Ali Yousaf, the son-in-law of Mr Shehbaz, in the defamation case.

A notification to this effect read that Mr Mian was removed with “immediate effect”.

His law firm was representing Mr Yousaf since the case was initiated in 2020, and reports suggest his legal representation did not irk the senior party leadership at the time.

After the paper apologised to Mr Shehbaz and retracted the story, he was asked to step down as he “hurt the party narrative”.

In a statement, Mr Mian said, “I informed the party that if my professional role as a lawyer in the UK is seen as in conflict with the party policy and if it is damaging the party’s narrative then the party should consider relieving me of my duties.”

“I sent this message on Friday and today the notification to relieve me was issued. I welcome it and I have no issue. My support and wishes remain with the PTI,” he said.

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2022

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