Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif
Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Image Credit: AFP

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday said dialogue was a key to evolving democracy, but categorically stated that it could not be held with ‘anarchists and arsonists’ in the garb of politicians.

The prime minister’s statement came after the former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan on Friday appealed for immediate talks with state officials. Sharif said dialogue was deeply embedded in the political process, which helped democracy mature and evolve. He said many political and constitutional breakthroughs occurred when political leaders sat across the table to craft a consensus.

“However, there is a major difference here, the anarchists and arsonists who wear the garb of politicians and attack the symbols of the state do not qualify for a dialogue,” he said. The prime minister emphasised that such people should rather be held to account for their militant actions.

He also termed it a prevalent practice even in developed democracies.

Imran sends Rs 10b defamation notice

Imran Khan’s legal team has sent a Rs 10 billion defamation notice to Pakistani Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel over “false and malicious” comments made during a press conference on Khan’s medical report.

The notice warned of possible court proceedings within 15 days if Patel does not immediately retract the statement, publish an apology and pay compensation for damages and legal costs.

Issued under the Defamation Ordinance of 2002, the legal notice accuses the health minister of spreading “false, misleading, malicious and defamatory” information about Khan in a press conference on May 26, 2023. It asserts that Patel’s remarks gained global attention through TV channels, social media, as well as local and international newspapers and caused damage to Khan’s reputation, and honour, as well as “emotional trauma and mental agony”. The notice alleges that the accused knowingly made the defamatory remarks, violating ethical standards expected of a member of the federal cabinet.

The notice also raises concerns regarding the omission of crucial information in the medical report, such as Khan’s head injury sustained on the day of arrest, and questions the absence of reports on his mental state. “The report emphasises a lot on the mental state of our client, however, no details of mental state examination have been provided,” it says.

The defamation notice demands retractions, an unconditional apology, a payment of Rs 10 billion as compensation, and a commitment to refrain from further defamatory comments. Failure to comply within the specified 15-day timeframe will result in legal action, with costs to be borne by the accused, according to the legal notice. The former prime minister is represented by attorney Abuzar Salman Khan Niazi. The health minister is yet to respond to the notice.

Press conference by health minister

Khan served the notice to the health minister after the government released confidential medical reports of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan, reportedly conducted during his custody on May 9. The minister claimed that there was no leg fracture but traces of alcohol and an illegal drug were found in his urine sample. However, he refrained from disclosing detailed findings of the medical report, saying that a comprehensive report would be shared with the media later. Khan underwent examination by a five-member medical board at the public hospital, Polyclinic and Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS). The medical report shared by the health minister also raised concerns about Khan’s mental stability.

The decision to release the medical records drew criticism, prompting the PTI to take legal action.

- with inputs from APP