LONDON: Retired army officer and dissident vlogger Adil Farooq Raja was denied by the UK High Court to stay proceedings in a defamation case brought against him by a former senior military officer, with the court setting a trial date for April 2025.

The defamation suit was filed against YouTuber Raja by retired Brigadier Rashid Naseer in August 2022, but was made public this week after the respondent stirred another controversy in Pakistan over his allegations targeting leading film and TV actresses.

An order issued by the court suggests that Mr Raja’s campaign against Mr Naseer kicked off on June 14, 2022 when the former alleged that he “has taken complete occupation of the Lahore High Court ‘to rig the upcoming elections’”.

The order issued last week by the High Court of Justice, King’s bench division in the media and communications list before Richard Spearman KC sitting as deputy high court judge details the allegations made by Mr Raja and determines their meaning at the preliminary stage.

It maintains that the case centres on 10 publications, which range from alleging that elections were not proceeding because the claimant (Mr Naseer) had taken complete control of the Lahore High Court; that the claimant had several meetings with Asif Ali Zardari during his stay to discuss election manipulation; that the claimant has set up an election cell in the ‘sector headquarters’ of Lahore tasked with gathering progress reports on PDM and PML-N candidates and that it is pressuring local influencers against PTI; that the claimant was abusing his position and that the claimant is directly involved in political interference.

The judge held that of the 10 allegations, nine are defamatory of the claimant at common law, and that the words complained of were said as statements of fact. At the trial stage, Mr Raja will have to prove the allegations he made against the claimant.

The order set out the administrative processes of sharing disclosure documents and witness statements, and allowed Mr Raja’s application to anonymise witnesses when exchanging witness statements.

Pakistan does not have robust defamation laws though the penal code does have some provisions pertaining to defamation cases. In recent years, however, Pakistanis defamed in the UK, either by a UK-based publisher or individual, have approached courts here to settle defamation claims.

Several high-profile individuals, including PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif and stalwart Ishaq Dar have filed defamation claims against publications here, and secured apologies when the publication declined to go to trial.

Defamation trials in the UK are costly, and can cost tens of thousands of pounds at the minimum. Many lawsuits involving Pakistanis have ended before going to trial stage, when the defendant apologises or offers to pay damages to the claimant.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2024

Editorial

Ominous demands
Updated 18 May, 2024

Ominous demands

The federal government needs to boost its revenues to reduce future borrowing and pay back its existing debt.
Property leaks
18 May, 2024

Property leaks

THE leaked Dubai property data reported on by media organisations around the world earlier this week seems to have...
Heat warnings
18 May, 2024

Heat warnings

STARTING next week, the country must brace for brutal heatwaves. The NDMA warns of severe conditions with...
Dangerous law
Updated 17 May, 2024

Dangerous law

It must remember that the same law can be weaponised against it one day, just as Peca was when the PTI took power.
Uncalled for pressure
17 May, 2024

Uncalled for pressure

THE recent press conferences by Senators Faisal Vawda and Talal Chaudhry, where they demanded evidence from judges...
KP tussle
17 May, 2024

KP tussle

THE growing war of words between KP Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur and Governor Faisal Karim Kundi is affecting...