A Pakistani court has issued a notice to Prime Minister Imran Khan in a defamation case filed by PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif seeking early hearing of his suit against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman, pending for three years.
Prime Minister Khan in April 2017 alleged that Shahbaz offered him USD 61 million through a common friend to withdraw the Panama Papers case in the Supreme Court against the 70-year-old former prime minister and his elder brother Nawaz Sharif.
Sharif, who is currently in London for treatment, is the supremo of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). He was disqualified as prime minister in 2017 by the Supreme Court in 2017 in the Panama Papers case.
Three corruption cases - Avenfield properties, Flagship investment and Al-Azizia steel mills - were registered against the Sharif family by the anti-graft body in 2017 following a judgment by the Supreme Court that disqualified him.
However, Khan did not name the person who offered him USD 61 million on behalf of the Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz.
Lahore's Additional District and Sessions Court on Friday took up Shahbaz's application for early hearing on June 10 in which he pleaded that (Prime Minister) Khan failed to file a written reply for the last three years causing no substantial proceedings in the case.
In total 60 hearings in this case, Khan's lawyer sought adjournment on 33 occasions. In the last hearing, the court was told that lead counsel advisor to Khan, Babar Awan could not travel from Islamabad to Lahore due to COVID-19 and the court adjourned hearing for June 22, a counsel for Shahbaz told the court.
Under the law, he said Awan cannot appear before the court to defend PM Khan since he has become his advisor. In his petition, Shahbaz requested the court to issue a decree for recovery of USD 61 million as compensation for the publication of defamatory content in his favour for causing great damage to his reputation in the public.
After hearing the arguments, Additional District & Sessions Judge Sohail Anjum issued notice to Prime Minister Khan for June 10 to submit a written reply.
Talking to the media after the court issued notice to Prime Minister Khan, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Auranzeb said: Imran will no longer qualify on Article 62, 63 of the Constitution if he fails to submit a response in the Rs10bn defamation case. I challenge Imran Khan to answer in court over his allegation of Rs10bn hush money offered by Shehbaz Sharif to him.
She said if on Jun 10 Imran fails to submit an answer in the court he will be officially stamped as a "liar" and will no longer be morally eligible to hold the office of a member of the National Assembly and the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Does a liar, incompetent and unqualified person deserve to be the leader of the Pakistani nation, she asked. Auranzeb further said Imran has been an absconder in this case for the past three years, and has delayed proceedings 33 times.
Similarly, for the last six years he had been an absconder from the foreign funding case and for the past two years over the 23 secret accounts case, she lamented.