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LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday dismissed a petition of former prime minister Imran Khan challenging the closure of his right to reply to objections raised by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in his defamation suit against Mr Khan.
Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has issued the order on a petition seeking Mr Khan’s disqualification as a lawmaker for “concealing his putative daughter in his nomination papers”.
A sessions court in Lahore, hearing the Rs10 billion defamation suit filed by Mr Sharif, had closed Mr Khan’s right to respond or oppose after he failed to respond in time to the objections raised.
Mr Sharif earlier asked the court to close Mr Khan’s right to file his written statement because of “inordinate delay” on the part of the PTI chief through “unnecessary adjournments”.
Mr Khan then appealed the lower court’s decision before the LHC. However, Justice Chaudhry Muhammad Iqbal dismissed his petition and upheld the trial court’s decision.
The defamation suit, filed in 2017, alleged that the defendant (Mr Khan) started uttering false and malicious statements against the plaintiff (Mr Sharif) that the latter offered Rs10bn to the former through a common friend in exchange for withdrawing the Panama Papers’ case pending before the Supreme Court.
It pleaded that Mr Khan’s “baseless and defamatory statements” were widely circulated by the media, denting Mr Sharif’s integrity and causing him “extreme mental torture, agony and anxiety”.
The court was requested to issue a decree for recovering Rs10bn as compensation for the publication of defamatory content in favour of the plaintiff.
After four years, the PTI chief filed his reply to the suit in 2021, saying one of his friends told him that someone known to him and also the Sharif family approached him with an offer to pay billions of rupees if he could convince him (Mr Khan) to stop pursuing the Panama case.
Mr Khan said he had disclosed the incident in the interest of the public good and therefore it did not constitute defamation. He said he did not specifically attribute any statement to Mr Sharif while narrating the incident.
Meanwhile, the IHC on Friday issued the order on the petition seeking Mr Khan’s disqualification. IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq has issued a pre-admission notice to Mr Khan and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on the petition of citizen Sajid Mehmood, asking their counsels of Mr Khan to help the court decide if the petition is maintainable.
The court will take up this matter again after a fortnight.
Mr Mehmood was seeking the disqualification of the PTI chief, an MNA from the NA-95 Mianwali-I constituency, contending that following a judgement of the Supreme Court in the ‘Speaker National Assembly of Pakistan, Islamabad v. Habib Akram, etc.’ case, all candidates contesting elections for either national or provincial assemblies were required to furnish an affidavit with respect of their credentials, assets, etc.
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