The former Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari, has filed a one billion rupee defamation suit against Penguin India for publishing a highly-critical book by a Pakistani businessman Sadrudin Hashwani.
Hashwani, Dubai-based head of the Hashoo Group, first fell afoul of Zardari in 1983 when bouncers in his hotel threw out the future husband of Benazir Bhutto after he got into a drunken brawl.
In the book, “Truth Always Prevails: A Memoir,” he describes how Zardari harassed his business empire when, later, Bhutto became prime minister and Zardari eventually became president.
The lawsuit, filed on March 9, names the CEO, editor and associate publisher of Penguin India, besides Hashwani himself, as defendants.
The book describes Hashwani’s difficulties with what he called the “institutionalized” corruption that Zardari introduced when he came to power.
Hashwani argues that even the war against terror became a “convenient cover for the conduct of organized criminal operations and political vendetta.” He hints that the terror attack on the Marriott Hotel attack in Islamabad in 2008 could have been Zardari’s handiwork. A Tehreek-e-Taliban splinter group, Ahrar ul Hind claimed responsibility for the attack.
Hashwani claims there were five attempts on his life between 2008 and 2009 and repeated attempts to undermine his business empire. “I guessed Zardari was somehow connected to all of it, but was unsure,” he writes.
The suit, filed by Delhi-based Ashish Mehta Advocates on behalf of Zardari, claims the book was “written with a view to cause damage by way of defamation to the image and reputation of our Client with malice.” It demands for damages “on account of loss of reputation” and “for mental agonies, torture and physical harassment” of Rs 500 million each. It demands that Penguin India stop publishing the book in any form within seven days. “We have also filed a case in Dubai, where Hashwani resides,” said lawyer Ashish Mehta.
Penguin India’s company secretary, Neeraj Karnatak, confirmed that the firm had received the notice and that it was now being “internally discussed”.
The legal notice promises to pay the money to a “charitable organization” but does not specify which one. Mehta, however, said it would be an “Indian” organization.