Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif
Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in a file photo. Image Credit: AFP

ISLAMABAD: Following an apology published prominently in the Daily Mail for scandalizing Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and for wrongly accusing him of corrupt practices when he was Chief Minister of Punjab, Prime Minister Sharif has hit out at his main political rival former Prime Minister and Chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan for running a character assassination campaign against him since the publication of story in 2019.

Hours after the Daily Mail’s apology was published on its website, the prime minister in a tweet observed: “I bow my head in humility before Allah (SWT) for my vindication. For 3 long years, Imran & his minions went to any limit to assassinate my character.”

The prime minister regretted that their (Imran and his team) actions brought a bad name to Pakistan and damaged its relations with friendly countries.

A day earlier, the Daily Mail on Sunday and news site Mail Online had apologised to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for an “error” in an article it published on July 4, 2019 wherein it had accused the prime minister of “stealing British foreign aid money.”

Imran’s anti-corruption narrative ‘exposed’

Former Prime Minister Imran Khan had quoted the article in his speeches and interviews on many an occasion and built up a narrative of the Sharifs’ corruption while referring to the article that claimed that Shehbaz Sharif had embezzled funds provided by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) for the rehabilitation of the 2005 earthquake when Shehbaz was chief minister of Punjab.

Shehbaz Sharif in another tweet said his political rivals mocked and ridiculed him and his family through baseless allegations but he was confident that they would be exposed in “their brazen lies.”

Truth, he said, was the ultimate victor adding after the National Crime Agency, Daily Mail story has proven his stance.

Daily Mail admits Sharif was never accused by NAB

The British publication in a clarification published don its website 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.”

The publication went on to say that the prime minister has never been accused by the National Accountability Bureau of any wrongdoing in relation to the 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.

Minister for Information & Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb while reacting to Daily Mail’s apology to PM Shehbaz Sharif said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif stood vindicated.

She said Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan and his aide on accountability Shahzad Akbar had hurled allegations against the Sharif family.