PM Shehbaz Sharif’s Daily Mail defamation case in London: What really happened? 

Justice Matthew Nicklin of the London High Court has granted costs to Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) in the defamation lawsuit brought against the newspaper by Pakistan’s prime minister Shehbaz Sharif over corruption claims.

At a hearing, the judge directed that Shehbaz Sharif’s attorney must deposit £30,000 by November 23. The ruling came after Shehbaz Sharif’s attorneys unilaterally petitioned the court to withdraw the stay plea in favor of advancing with the trial. Shehbaz Sharif’s attorneys at Carter-Ruck took this action after Shehbaz was cleared in the money laundering case by a Pakistani court. Still, the application for a stay at the London High Court was filed considerably earlier.

The court judgment reveals that Shehbaz Sharif’s attorneys requested a “stay” of the proceedings in conjunction with the Daily Mail publication. Before this, Daily Mail filed multiple “stay” requests, claiming the security situation in Pakistan, the Covid-19 lockdown, and the difficulties of the legal team going to Pakistan to acquire case-related material.

According to legal authorities, this “stay” was agreed upon by all parties – Daily Mail publishers, Shehbaz Sharif, and Imran Ali Yousuf – but Shehbaz Sharif’s attorneys decided to withdraw it just before the case management session at which the trial dates were to be determined.

The costs and case management hearing goal is to determine how the matter will move to trial and to review the parties’ costs budgets, i.e., their estimated costs of bringing the proceedings to a close.

According to legal sources, Shehbaz Sharif’s legal team made this decision after Daily Mail’s attorneys at Wiggins LLP commenced discussions with Sharif’s attorneys at Carter-Ruck to investigate methods to resolve the dispute, including out-of-court and before to trial.

According to sources, Shehbaz Sharif’s attorneys took “stays” after both London and Pakistan legal teams determined that, since the money-laundering cases in UK and Pakistan were of the same nature, involving the same documents and allegations, it would be appropriate to let one jurisdiction run these cases while taking a stay would be the natural course of action.

According to British law, a party withdrawing an application is responsible for the opposing party’s costs. In this instance, Carter-Ruck requested that the stay be lifted and trial processes allowed to continue.

The court has also ordered Shehbaz Sharif’s attorneys to give a detailed response to the Daily Mail’s defense within one month, or the case would be dismissed. According to the sources, Shehbaz Sharif has already submitted a response to the Daily Mail’s defenses. Still, the substantive and thorough response is currently being drafted based on the conclusion of money-laundering trials in Pakistan. In 2019, the prime minister filed a defamation suit against the British newspaper and its journalist David Rose for accusing him of embezzling state cash.

“The article is gravely defamatory of Shehbaz, including false allegations that he misappropriated UK taxpayers’ money in the form of Department for International Development (DFID) help intended for the victims of the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. The legal document stated that Shehbaz disputes the charges.

Originally published in The News