Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has urged Imran Khan to file a defamation case against Britain’s Financial Times newspaper for publishing an incriminating report alleging how funds raised through charity cricket matches were used to ‘rise of the political party of the deposed prime minister. The Financial Times published the story on Thursday titled “The strange case of the cricket match that helped fund Khan’s political rise.”
The report says fees were paid to Wootton Cricket Ltd, which despite the name was in fact a company incorporated in the Cayman Islands owned by Pakistani tycoon Arif Naqvi, the founder of Dubai-based Abraaj Group.
The report says Wootton Cricket Ltd was used to fund the cricketer-turned-politician’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party after receiving funds from businesses and individuals, including at least £2m in April of 2013 of an influential Arab figure.
Responding to the report, Prime Minister Shehbaz said in a tweet: “I urge Imran Khan to file a defamation case against the Financial Times for publishing an incriminating article. If he doesn’t and I’m sure he won’t he would, he will try. longer how blatantly he is lying and deceiving the people of Pakistan.”
“Could it be more damning? The charade of self-proclaimed honesty and rectitude has been shattered by the Financial Times story detailing the flow of foreign funding into PTI bank accounts. Imran Niazi is a heap of massive contradictions, lies and hypocrisy” . he said
Information and Broadcasting Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said PTI chief Khan and the foreign funding received by his party were the biggest threat to Pakistan.
He said Khan received funding from the United States and has no right to talk about national security, state-run Radio Pakistan reported.
Aurangzeb said that instead of talking about the economy, Khan should answer why he used the donations to manage his party’s affairs.
Khan, 69, has said he is awaiting the verdict of the election commission’s investigation.
“It will not be appropriate to prejudge the PTI,” he said.
In its January report, the election commission said Wootton Cricket had transferred $2.12 million to the PTI, but did not disclose the original source of the money.
The impact of the scandal could still affect Khan’s re-election ambitions. In July he renewed his call for an early poll after the PTI won a critical victory in a by-election in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province. On Twitter, he called the Election Commission of Pakistan “totally biased”, the report said.
At the same time, Prime Minister Shehbaz has urged the commission to release its verdict on the PTI case, saying delays caused by political infighting had given Khan “a free pass despite his repeated and shameless attacks on institutions state”.
Khan was ousted from power in April after losing a no-confidence vote in his leadership, which he alleged was part of a US-led conspiracy against him over his independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China and Afghanistan.
Khan, who came to power in 2018, reportedly with the support of the military, is the only Pakistani prime minister to have been ousted in a no-confidence vote in Parliament. He was replaced by PML-N’s Shehbaz Sharif.