This correspondent has seen papers which show that Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has launched his defamation claim in relation to allegations made about him in a programme ‘Mahaaz’ first broadcast on 7 May 2016.
This programme was aired in the UK jurisdiction twice. It’s understood that Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, a leading figure of Pakistan People’s Party, spent two weeks in London recently to holds talks with his legal team.
In the court papers filed by the former PM, seen by Geo News, Raja Perviaz Ashraf stresses that the channel’s claim that the former PM owns a very expensive flat in London has no foundation in truth. His case rests round the line that the programme implied that Ashraf had bought the flat using inappropriately obtained funds.
Ashraf has told the court in defence papers, filed under oath, that he doesn’t own any property in the UK, let alone in any expensive area of London.
“It was also implied that in choosing to buy expensive property in London rather than in Pakistan Ashraf was being unpatriotic and was avoiding paying tax in Pakistan,” one of the court papers says.
Ashraf says he was defamed and the show was aimed at causing harm to his reputation in the UK where he has a large number of relatives and constituents living.
“The programme was designed to damage my reputation and I found it extremely hurtful. The allegation that I own an expensive flat in London is false; I don’t own any property in the UK. Worse were the implications that I was unpatriotic and am avoiding paying tax in Pakistan. I am concerned that the worst elements of the press in Pakistan have ceased to have regard to facts when it covers politics. I hope that this claim will cause the worst elements of the Pakistani media to understand that mud-slinging unfounded in fact is not constructive to political discourse in the modern democracy that is Pakistan.”
Raja Pervaiz Ashraf’s legal team is headed by Nicholas Grundy QC and Rashid Ahmed. They said Raja Pervaiz Ashraf had given the news channel opportunities to apologise and retract the false allegations made in the program; however, the news channel “has prevarication to the point where Mr Ashraf was left with no alternative but to issue this claim”.
They said Raja Pervaiz Ashraf had a strong claim that the programme defamed Mr Ashraf; it was simply wrong to state that Mr Ashraf owns a flat in London, let alone one worth millions of dollars. The allegations made were clearly intended to damage Mr Ashraf’s reputation in the eyes of his Pakistani constituents.
Raja Pervaiz Ashraf is the latest Pakistani notable who has decided to go to the British courts to seek justice against defamatory and libelous allegations in Pakistani media.
In November last year, Geo and Jang Grou’s Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman made history when he won a landmark defamation case against ARY News Network over slander and defamatory allegations.
In the court, the ARY said that it didn’t defend allegations that it made against Mr Rahman and confirmed that it had no proofs to back up its allegations.
The total cost to ARY was in the region of around £3 million. The ARY filed for bankruptcy and its channels were shutdown by the media regulator, Ofcom.
Renowned businessman Mian Mansha had also sued the ARY in UK over lies the channel spread about Mr Mansha. Miah Mansha’s claim didn’t reach the trial because the ARY went bust but it’s understood that Mr Mansha has his case alive.
Malala Yousufzai’s father Ziauddin had also sued ARY after one of the channel hosts accused him of being a foreign agent. Prior to this, the ARY has tendered apologies to PIA’s former general manager, Shujaat Azeem, for allegations.
Raja Perviaz Ashraf refused to comment when approached. He said he cannot speak about a matter which is in the court now but a member of Raja Pervaiz Ashraf’s legal team commented that it was the legal right of former prime minister to seek justice in any part of the world including in the UK where he was defamed.
He said that his client expected speedy justice from the London High Court. It’s expected that the news channel will submit its reply within three weeks but has made no official comment whether it will defend the allegations or go for a settlement.