A British court has rejected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s plea for an indefinite adjournment order in the Daily Mail defamation case and refused to give him more time to file his reply.
Justice Matthew Nicklin of the London High Court of Justice heard the case on November 9.
The PM’s lawyers sought more time for their client to submit his response in the case, contending that the prime minister was fully occupied with legal duties.
“The prime minister and common man are equal in this court,” media reports quoted Justice Nicklin as saying in response to the PM’s request.
In a statement, Federal Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said the British newspaper had delayed the defamation case for one and a half years on different pretexts.
“We have won this case to the extent of stating our position,” she claimed.
The information minister said the next hearing of the case had been fixed for December 13 in which she said a detailed response to the allegations will be submitted to the court.
“PM Shehbaz’s brief response in the case has already been submitted to the court while the Daily Mail has not been able to prove its allegations yet,” she maintained.
“Now it [Daily Mail] will have to face the law,” Marriyum added.
In 2020, PM Shehbaz, then the opposition leader, had filed a case in the London High Court against the British daily and its reporter David Rose for publishing a “fabricated and defamatory” report against him in July 2019.
He claimed damages as well as an injunction restraining the newspaper from publishing ‘defamatory words’.
“It was a fabricated and defamatory story which was published in the Daily Mail. It was a part of propaganda launched by [then prime minister] Imran Niazi against the PML-N in the name of sham accountability,” he said while addressing a news conference in London in January that year.
The story had appeared on July 14, 2019 in the British newspaper accusing the former Punjab chief minister and his family of embezzling millions of pounds out of £500 million aid lent by the Department for International Development (DFID) for the victims of Pakistan’s 2005 earthquake.
As soon as the report surfaced, the PML-N had termed it a conspiracy against Shehbaz hatched by the then PTI government.
Journalist Rose tweeted: If PM Shehbaz’s amended reply was deemed not to comply with the requirements set down by law next month, his action would be “struck out”.
“If that happened, he would have to pay all our [legal] costs since he brought the case. The same would be true if he and [his son-in-law] Ali Imran withdrew,” he added.
The court directed Shehbaz Sharif to pay £30,000 as legal cost in the defamation case. The court also directed his son-in-law Ali Imran to pay £27,055 by November 23.
The court refused to give Shehbaz Sharif more time to file a response, rejecting his request for an indefinite adjournment in the defamation case.