Zulfi Bukhari, former special assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan for Overseas Pakistanis, has won the first round of a defamation lawsuit against Reham Khan, a broadcaster and former wife of PM Imran Khan.
Justice Karen Steyn of the London High Court decided the significance of the eight publications provided by Zulfi Bukhari in his case, including a YouTube video on Roosevelt Hotel by Reham Khan, which included four accusations and four Tweets/Retweets.
Justice Steyn rejected Reham Khan’s interpretation of the publications and instead accepted Zulfi Bukhari’s argument.
The defamation claim stemmed from a YouTube broadcast by Reham Khan on December 6, 2019, from the UK’s jurisdiction, in which she claimed that Zulfi Bukhari had a personal interest in the sale of the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan, which is owned by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), and that Pakistan’s national assets were being sold to help people like Zulfi Bukhari commit “robbery.”
Barrister Claire Overman for Zulfi Bukhari had argued that her client had been defamed at the highest level because he had been found guilty of corruption and dishonesty, while Reham Khan argued that the claim deserved no more than Chase Level 3 because Zulfi’s reputation had not been harmed and the publications were in the public interest.
Zulfi Bukhari filed in July last year at the London High Court that Reham Khan deliberately targeted him in relation to the sale of Roosevelt Hotel.
The court heard that the broadcaster had raised accusations of corruption and favouritism in the first publication, dated December 6, 2019, through YouTube, claiming that Imran Khan’s administration intended to favour Zulfi Bukhari via the dubious hotel transaction.
The second publication was a Twitter promotion of the same YouTube video claiming Zulfi’s favouritism; the third publication was a Twitter promotion of the same YouTube video, and the fourth publication was a Twitter promotion of the same video alleging Roosevelt Hotel “plunder.”
The fifth publication was a retweet by another Twitter user condemning “nepotism” in relation to the same video; the sixth publication was a retweet by Reham by the same Twitter user with the words “shocking claims & revelations” and “Zulfi needs to STOP Lying and NAB needs to investigate his father’s REAL money trail”; and the seventh publication was a retweet by a Pakistani journalist with Meanwhile, the eighth publication was a repost of a tweet in which Zulfi Bukhari was accused of “blamed for the #coronavirus spread in Pakistan” and “putting millions of Pakistani lives at risk”.
Reham Khan told the court in her submission that her December 6, 2019, the video was an attempt to raise public awareness about the government’s intentions for the historic Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan. She said that her broadcast was based on information that the Aviation Ministry had opposed to the establishment of a Roosevelt task group.
Reham Khan said she was just trying to preserve the Roosevelt Hotel and that she had the right to criticise the government’s “performance or buffoonery.”
She informed the court that she did not use disparaging language and that her remarks were not intended to disparage the claimant personally. She went on to say that her goal had been met and that the sale of Roosevelt had been halted.
Judge Karen Steyn determined that all eight publications contained a Chase Level 1 imputation; all eight publications were statements of facts, with the exception of a portion of the seventh publication that is an opinion (the rest of the seventh publication is a statement of fact); and all eight publications were defamatory of Zulfi Bukhari.
In a statement, Reham Khan said: “I have no reason to harbour any personal vendetta against Zulfi. We parted on cordial terms. This, however, does not mean that I will not criticise the PTI government’s performance and plans that make no sense.
It is believed that Barrister Claire Overman will be taking further instructions.