‘Not accused of any wrongdoing’: Daily Mail apologises to PM Shehbaz for false corrpution allegation – Pakistan

British publication The Mail on Sunday and news site Mail Online on Thursday apologised to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for an “error” in an article it published on July 4, 2019 — in which it had accused the premier of “stealing British foreign aid money”.

The said news story, written by investigative journalist David Rose, has now been removed from the publication’s website and other platforms.

The article had claimed that Shehbaz had embezzled funds provided by UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) for the rehabilitation of the 2005 earthquake while he was chief minister of Punjab.

It had quoted former accountability chief Shahzad Akbar and a few other individuals — none of whom were in an official position. The story was quickly refuted by the PML-N and the party had insisted that it was published “on the behest of [PTI Chairman] Imran Khan”. It was also rejected by DFID, which said the body’s “robust systems protected UK taxpayers from fraud”.

In January 2020, the prime minister had filed a defamation claim against the “grotesque allegation” claiming a retraction, damages and an apology.

In March this year, the newspaper submitted a 50-page response to Shehbaz’s defamation suit.

A screenshot of the clarification issued by Daily Mail on Thursday.

In a clarification published on its website today, the British publication 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.”

It said that the premier “has never been accused by the National Accountability Bureau of any wrongdoing in relation to British public money or DFID grant aid”.

“We are pleased to make this clear and apologise to Mr Sharif for this error,” Daily Mail added.

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