ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif on Friday sent a legal notice to British publication ‘The Mail on Sunday’ and online news site ‘Mail Online’ and its journalist David Rose in connection with an article published in the newspaper on July 14.
According to a press release, issued by London-based legal firm Carter-Ruck Solicitors, a formal legal complaint had been lodged against the news outlets and investigative journalist Rose for the “gravely defamatory” story.
David Rose, the journalist, in his story, had claimed that Shehbaz, the former chief minister of Punjab, had embezzled funds provided by UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) for the rehabilitation of victims of the 2005 earthquake. The journalist quoted in his story Assets Recovery Unit Chief Shahzad Akbar and a few other individuals — none of whom were in an official position.
The story was quickly refuted by the PML-N, which insisted that it was published “on the behest of [Prime Minister] Imran Khan”. It was also rejected by DFID that said the body’s “robust systems protected UK taxpayers from fraud.”
The press release issued said the article was highly defamatory as Shehbaz was falsely accused of misappropriating UK taxpayers’ money in the form of DFID aid meant for the victims of the devastating 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.
“I am utterly appalled by these allegations,” the press release quoted Shehbaz as saying.
The statement further said that if there had been any evidence in support of the allegations leveled against Shehbaz, he would have been “arrested and charged.”
It added, “At no stage were the allegations properly put to me in advance of publication. Had they been, I would have pointed out — among other matters — that at the time of the earthquake in 2005, I was not even in Pakistan but was living in exile in the UK.”
Shehbaz, in his statement, repeated his claim that the story was part of a “politically motivated campaign”, initiated by the premier and his aide Shahzad Akbar against him.
The article, ‘Did the family of UK aid’s poster boy steal taxpayers’ cash meant for earthquake victims?’, quoted Shehbaz’s son Suleman as denying the allegations against him and his family, saying they were the product of a ‘political witch-hunt’, ordered by Prime Minister Imran Khan. “No allegation has been proven. There is no evidence of kickbacks,” he is quoted as saying in the report.