British publication The Mail on Sunday and news site Mail Online apologised on Thursday to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for an “error” in an article it published on July 4, 2019 – in which it had accused the premier of “stealing British foreign aid money”. The said news story, written by investigative journalist David Rose, has now been removed from the publication’s website and other platforms. The article had claimed that Shehbaz had embezzled funds provided by UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) for the rehabilitation of the 2005 earthquake while he was chief minister of Punjab. It had quoted former accountability chief Shahzad Akbar and a few other individuals – none of whom were in an official position. The story was quickly refuted by the PML-N and the party had insisted that it was published “on the behest of [PTI Chairman] Imran Khan”. It was also rejected by DFID, which said the body’s “robust systems protected UK taxpayers from fraud”. In January 2020, the prime minister had filed a defamation claim against the “grotesque allegation” claiming a retraction, damages and an apology. In March this year, the newspaper submitted a 50-page response to Shehbaz’s defamation suit. In a clarification published on its website, the British publication 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.” It said that the premier “has never been accused by the National Accountability Bureau of any wrongdoing in relation to 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. Commenting on the development, PM Shehbaz thanked God for his vindication. “For three long years, Imran and his minions went to any limit to assassinate my character. In their smear campaign, they didn’t bother if their actions brought a bad name to Pakistan and damaged its relations with friendly countries,” he tweeted. The premier went on to say that the PTI mocked and ridiculed him and his family through their “baseless allegations but I had my unwavering faith in Allah, for only He could expose their brazen lies”. Disinformation and fake news have limited shelf life and the truth is the ultimate victor. After NCA, the Daily Mail story has proven it,” he added. Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb on Thursday said the apology tendered by the Daily Mail to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on publishing a false story was a “slap on the face of opponents”. “No corruption has been proven against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif who is vindicated by Almighty Allah,” she said in a news statement. The minister said it was not only PM Shehbaz Sharif but the entire nation, which stood vindicated.