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Shehbaz Sharif not initiated legal action against The Mail: Shahzad Akbar

29 July, 2019

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ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar on Sunday claimed that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif had not initiated legal action against British publication The Mail on Sunday and online news site Mail Online about an article published on July 14.

Akbar, while addressing a press conference in Islamabad, recalled that Shehbaz Sharif had issued a formal legal complaint against the publication and called the news report ? which the PML-N leader insisted was part of a politically motivated campaign against him ? “gravely defamatory”.

Akbar claimed that the complaint issued via London-based legal firm Carter-Ruck Solicitors did not refute any specific allegation made against Shehbaz Sharif, nor did it say that formal legal action had been initiated against the publication.

Akbar added that the journalist behind the report, David Rose, was sticking to his story, and also shared a tweet from him dated July 26.

According to Akbar, although the complaint stated that the article did not include Shehbaz Sharif’s version, it included his son’s version and his office had also been contacted. He said the complaint stated that reporting the story had not been in the public’s interest. “How was it not in public interest?” Akbar asked, adding that this statement required clarification.

Akbar said that nowhere in the four-page complaint were the allegations in the article denied. “Not one word in the story [was] refuted,” he asserted.

“According to Shehbaz Sharif’s own law firm, no case has been initiated [against the British publication] as yet,” Akbar said. “They complained to The Mail on Sunday saying, […] ‘We are thinking of filing a case against you.’ This is not a lawsuit. Going to court is [initiating a lawsuit].” “If you are in the right, why not go to court?” Akbar asked.

The PM’s special assistant challenged Shehbaz Sharif to make his letter of complaint public despite its status as privileged communication.

Earlier, following the publication of the article, Akbar seemed willing to appear against Shehbaz Sharif in a London court.

He announced to become party to a case if Shehbaz Sharif served a legal notice on the British newspaper and its reporter. “In that court, I will [produce evidence] of every TT (telegraphic transfer) made by you; how kickbacks were sent from here; how money was transferred through hundi and hawala.” he had said.

On Sunday, the premier’s special assistant recalled his earlier statements, adding, “I can reveal 50-100 times more things [about Shehbaz Sharif’s alleged embezzlement] than this story, come to court.”

“I am feeling left out. You sent a legal notice to the Mail, send me one too. I have packed my suitcase and I’m ready to appear in court in London, where you likely won’t go, and I will stand there and tell the truth about what you’ve done,” he said.

He also said that Shehbaz Sharif had vowed to take him to court. After publication of the report, the premier’s aide had asked the PML-N leader not to back away from his “promise” of filing a case against him.

“Ali Imran had turned fugitive, and Rs 1 billion has been recovered from Naveed Akram… according to Daily Mail, millions of dollars were laundered from Britain,” he maintained. He said Ali Imran was sent money directly from a project of Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA). “If we talk of corruption, then [the opposition] says that the CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) is endangered,” he said, and reiterated that the government was committed to recovering plundered wealth of the nation.

The story published earlier this month claimed that Sharif, the former chief minister of Punjab, had embezzled funds provided by UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) for the rehabilitation of the 2005 earthquake victims.

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