A Pakistani court has issued a notice to Prime Minister Imran Khan in a defamation case filed by PML-N chief Shahbaz Sharif seeking early hearing of his suit against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman, pending for three years.

In April 2017, Khan alleged that Shahbaz Sharif allegedly offered him USD 61 million through a “common friend” to withdraw the Panama Papers case in the Supreme Court against 70-year-old former Prime Minister and his elder brother Nawaz Sharif.

Three corruption cases – Avenfield properties, Flagship investment and Al-Azizia steel mills – were registered against the Sharif family by the anti-corruption body in 2017 following a judgment by the Supreme Court that disqualified him.

The former Prime Minister is in the UK for his medical treatment. He was disqualified as Prime Minister in 2017 by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case.

However, PM Khan did not name the person who allegedly offered him USD 61 million on behalf of the Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif.

Last month, anti-graft agency had approved the filing of two additional corruption references against Nawaz Sharif in the accountability court.

On Friday, Lahore’s Additional District and Sessions Court took up Shahbaz Sharif’s application for early hearing on June 10 in which he pleaded that Imran Khan failed to file a written reply for the last three years causing no substantial proceedings in the case.

A counsel for Shahbaz Sharif told the court, “In total 60 hearings in this case, Imran Khan’s lawyer sought adjournment on 33 occasions. In the last hearing, the court was told that lead counsel advisor to Imran Khan, Babar Awan could not travel from Islamabad to Lahore due to COVID-19 and the court adjourned hearing for June 22”.

Shahbaz Sharif in his petition requested the court to issue a decree for recovery of USD 61 million as compensation for the publication of defamatory content in his favour for causing great damage to his reputation in the public.

After hearing the arguments, Additional District & Sessions Judge Sohail Anjum issued notice to Imran Khan for June 10 to submit a written reply.

Spaeking to the media after the court issued notice to Imran Khan, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Auranzeb said, “Imran Khan will no longer qualify on Article 62, 63 of the Constitution if he fails to submit a response in the Rs 10 billion defamation case.

“I challenge Imran Khan to answer in court over his allegation of Rs 10 billion hush money offered by Shehbaz Sharif to him”, she further added to her statement.

Earlier this week, a Lahore High Court (LHC) division bench granted pre-arrest bail till June 17 Shehbaz Sharif.

In 2018, NAB Lahore had arrested Shahbaz Sharif in Aashyana company case.

In the Ashiyana housing scam, Shehbaz has been accused of ordering the cancellation of a contract given to a successful bidder for the low-cost housing scheme, resulting in a loss of Rs 193 million to the national exchequer.

Nawaz Sharif had also secured bail in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case from the Lahore High Court on the same medical ground.