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Imran Khan Heading Towards Tendering Apology to Shahbaz Sharif in defamation suit

Imran Khan

News Analysis |

It might seem unbelievable that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman, Imran Khan, will be tendering an apology to his arch-rival, the Chief Minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, but the ground realities imply that the cricketer-turned-politician might have to take the move in days to come.

The apology relates to a defamation suit filed by Shahbaz Sharif against PTI Chairman, over the latter’s allegations that Sharif was asked to keep mum over the case of Panama Papers for a staggering bribe of Rs. 10 billion. A session’s court gave the PTI Chairman his last chance to submit a response to the case, after his counsel failed to show up of Friday. Dr Babar Awan, who has been representing Imran Khan in the case, also did not show up before the court again. The continuous no-show has now riled the judge which asked the junior counsel, in the latest hearing, to make a unilateral decision on the matter.

The judge also set a deadline of May 15th for the counsel to appear and submit a satisfactory response in the case. In the last hearing, a junior advocate appeared before the court and contended that Babar was busy in Islamabad, however, he failed to convince the court in this regard.

Even though a defamation suit against Imran Khan has also been filed by Geo television channel, the recent ice-breaking between the media outlet and the political party suggests that Geo might withdraw its suit.

This defamation suit was filed, after Imran Khan addressed his party workers in May 2017, and said that a mutual friend of his and Shahbaz Sharif came with an offer to receive Rs 10 billion to withdraw the Panama Papers Case – a petition against which he was being actively pursued by PTI at that time. Irked by the allegation, PML-N bigwigs served two notices. The first legal notice was served on May 8th by Shahbaz Sharif through his counsel, Khawaja Haris.

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The second notice was served on May 10th by Hamza Shehbaz through his counsel Advocate, Azam Nazeer Tarar. The PTI supremo did not reveal the name of the ‘mysterious friend’ when pressed by a television anchor, however, vowed that the name would be disclosed before the court of law.

When Khan was threatened by PML-N with legal proceedings, he welcomed the move. The allegations of Imran Khan set the tongues wagging and a guessing game began over who could be the carrier of the message. Pakistan People’s Party stalwart, Nabeel Gabol, claimed that the man who allegedly offered Imran Khan Rs 10 billion as a bribe on behalf of the Sharif family was ‘ Umer Farooq Goldie, owner of the Shapes Fitness Gym in Lahore, however, Goldie denied the allegations altogether.

The legal proceedings gained pace in the meantime and Shahbaz Sharif urged the court to wind up the case on a fast track. During one of the hearings in March, Imran Khan’s counsel, Babar Awan did not file a reply but questioned the jurisdiction of the court as Khan had made the remarks in Islamabad, while the case was filed in Lahore. In a successive hearing in March, Judge Rai Naeem was requested by the counsel for Shahbaz Sharif that the court should wrap up the case, citing that the defamation suit should conclude within a span of 90 days. Reportedly, Imran Khan’s counsel Babar Awan has still not appeared before the court and chances are high that Khan will be tendering an apology soon.

The apology relates to a defamation suit filed by Shahbaz Sharif against PTI Chairman, over the latter’s allegations that Sharif was asked to keep mum over the case of Panama Papers for a staggering bribe of Rs. 10 billion.

Imran Khan, who otherwise looks defiant in the face of state institutions, had also tendered an apology to the Election Commission of Pakistan in October 2017 regarding the contempt of court proceedings. Even in that case, Babar Awan was representing Imran Khan and the PTI supremo submitted a written apology citing ‘respect for institutions’.

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Moreover, in 2014, Imran Khan withdrew his apology letter submitted in response to a libel, filed by the former Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, after the judge was accused them of colluding with PML-N in the 2013 elections. Even though a defamation suit against Imran Khan has also been filed by Geo television channel, the recent ice-breaking between the media outlet and the political party suggests that Geo might withdraw its suit.

On the other hand, considering the struggle and ideology of Imran Khan against the Sharif family, it seems unlikely that Shahbaz Sharif will withdraw his case, compelling Imran Khan to tender an apology, by hook or by crook.

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