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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 458, 9 December 2022

Daily Mail apologetic over claims of PM Shehbaz Sharif’s involvement in funds embezzlement



Why did the publication apologise and what did the prime minister say?

Bhoomika Sesharaj

On 8 December, The Daily Mail apologised to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for an “error” in an article they published on 4 July 2019 and said that the story has since been removed from the publication’s website and other platforms. This comes after an article claimed that PM Shehbaz had siphoned off funds provided by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) for the rehabilitation of the 2005 earthquake when he was the chief minister of Punja and had quoted former accountability chief Shahzad Akbar and a few others, who were not in any official positions. The story was condemned by the PML-N who stood firm that the story was published at “the behest of” Imran Khan and was also rejected by the DFID. 



What did PM Shehbaz Sharif say?
In January 2020, PM Shehbaz filed a defamation claim in the London High Court against Daily Mail and David Rose, the author of the article against the “grotesque” allegation of the article, and asked for a retraction of the article, along with files of damage and an apology. In March 2022, the newspaper let out a 50-page response to PM Shehbaz’s defamation suit but only clarified its stance on the matter on 8 December, apologising for the allegations and said, “...In an article concerning Mr Shahbaz Sharif entitled ‘Did the family of Pakistani politician who has become the poster boy for British overseas aid STEAL funds meant for earthquake victims’ published on 14 July 2019 we reported on an investigation by Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau into Mr Sharif and suggested that the money under investigation included a not insubstantial sum of British public money that had been paid to the Punjab province in DFID grant aid.” 

PM Shehbaz commented on the apology and said that Imran Khan “and his minions” had foregone “limits” to “assassinate” his character and that their “smear campaign” entailed a “bad name” to Pakistan and had sabotaged its relations with friendly countries. He said that the PTI had “mocked” and “ridiculed” him and that he had faith that the allegations against him could be “exposed.” 

The government also made comments on the matter, with Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah claiming that the apology had exposed “malicious propaganda” against PM Shehbaz and Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb terming the apology as “a slap on the face of the opponents” and that no corruption has been proven against PM Shehbaz. (“‘Not accused of any wrongdoing’: Daily Mail apologises to PM Shehbaz for false corruption allegation,” Dawn, 8 December 2022; “Daily Mail apologises to Shehbaz over funds embezzlement allegations,” The Express Tribune, 8 December 2022)

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