A US legal firm representing the Bhutto-Zardari family has threatened to file a lawsuit seeking over $100 million in damages if Pakistan's Jang media group does not apologise for a report about President Asif Ali Zardari's purported marriage to a doctor named Tanveer Zamani.
Locke Lord Bissell and Liddell, the legal firm in New York, served notice on Friday on the Jang group for publishing a libellous article about Zardari.
The notice was issued on behalf of Mark Siegel, the publicist of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto, and the Bhutto-Zardari family.
The notice said Zamani had confirmed to Siegel that she had "never met" Zardari.
The Jang group, which has been running a campaign against Zardari since last year, had reported extensively on a rumour posted on several hitherto unheard of blogs and websites that the President had "secretly" married Zamani, a New York-based physician and PPP activist.
"Unless such a retraction and apology is issued immediately, Locke Lord Bissell and Liddell LLP will initiate legal action on behalf of the Bhutto-Zardari family for libel, malicious publication and intentional infliction of emotional distress in all jurisdictions where your newspaper has assets," said the notice.
"This lawsuit will seek in excess of $100 million, which the Bhutto-Zardari family will donate to the victims of the 2010 floods in Pakistan," the notice said.
The notice said the news report about the purported marriage was a "complete lie that was fostered by an Internet hoax that has been ongoing for several weeks".
"Publication of such a non-sourced fabrication was not only reckless, it was malicious. President Zardari has never met Dr Zamani, and Dr Zamani has confirmed such to Mr Siegel," the notice further said.
"By publishing such an outright lie, the Jang group, its publisher and author of this article have caused severe emotional distress to the Bhutto-Zardari family, especially President Zardari's three children who are still mourning the murder of their mother," it added.
The notice warned that legal action will be taken by the firm against the Jang group, its publisher and the author of the article concerning Zardari unless "a retraction and apology are issued immediately".
There was no word on the development from the Jang group though The News, the group's English newspaper, posted a denial of the wedding by Zamani on its website.