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LAHORE: The sessions court hearing the Rs10 billion defamation suit filed by Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan gave the PTI chief’s counsel the last chance on Friday to appear in court.
Imran’s counsel Babar Awan has been a constant no-show since the defamation suit was filed in July last year.
Hearing the case today, Shehbaz’s counsel informed the court that Awan is using delaying tactics by not appearing in court and challenging its jurisdiction.
The court then gave Awan a last chance to appear and present his arguments. The hearing was adjourned until February 17.
In November last year, the Punjab chief minister had filed a petition seeking a swift verdict in the case. Shehbaz had stated in the petition that Imran is employing delay tactics and pleaded that the verdict be given in the next 90 days.
Imran, in a public gathering last year, had claimed that Shehbaz had offered to pay him Rs10 billion to remain hush on the Panama Papers case against the Sharif family.
The petition, filed in the court of Lahore additional sessions judge Azfar Sultan under Sections 4 (defamation actionable) and 9 (remedies) of Defamation Ordinance, 2002, states that “the facts and circumstances giving rise to the filing of the instant suit are that since the last week of April 2017, the Defendant [Imran Khan] started uttering, spreading and resorting to the publication, communication and circulation of maliciously false, baseless and unfounded oral statements and representations against the Plaintiff [Shehbaz].”
Moreover, it states that Imran claimed Shehbaz “offered to pay a sum of Rs10,000,000,000 to the Defendant in exchange for his withdrawing/backing-off from, or remaining silent on the issue of the Panama Papers case.”
On April 25, 2017, Imran, during a gathering at Shaukat Khanum Hospital, Lahore, alleged that he had been made an offer regarding the Panama case.
“Just imagine how much money he offered me to be silent — Rs10 billion! If he can offer me this much money, just imagine how much he could offer others. That is why if we don’t maintain public pressure on this issue, then after two months it will be dragged to the next year,” Khan had claimed.
In an interview televised following the statement, Khan refused to reveal the name of the person who made the offer but did state that this person was close to the Punjab chief minister.
In a press conference later in the day, the PTI chairman directly accused Shehbaz of using the law to his benefit. Khan said he was waiting for Shehbaz to take him to court as he would expose all the wrongdoings he [Shehbaz] has committed.