The special court is presently presiding over the cipher case involving PTI Chairman Imran Khan and Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
In accordance with the court’s directive issued on October 9, both PTI leaders are expected to face charges during today’s proceedings.
The cipher case revolves around a diplomatic document that allegedly disappeared from Imran’s possession. The PTI claims that this document contained a threat from the United States aimed at removing Imran from office.
On August 5, 2023, Imran, the PTI chief, was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison in the Toshakhana graft case. Subsequently, he was transferred to Attock jail, but the Islamabad High Court (IHC) later suspended his sentence. However, Imran remained incarcerated due to his judicial remand in the cipher case.
On September 25, the IHC granted Imran’s request to be moved from Attock district jail to Adiala jail in Rawalpindi.
On September 30, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) submitted a charge sheet in the Special Court, established under the Official Secrets Act, naming the former prime minister and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi as the principal accused in the cipher case.
Imran has filed several petitions in the IHC, including two seeking a halt to his jail trial and bail in the cipher case, another seeking the suspension of the Toshakhana verdict, and one against his indictment in the cipher case.
Today, Special Court Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain began an in-camera hearing of the cipher case at Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail.
State prosecutor Zulfikar Abbas Naqvi was present, along with the FIA’s team and the investigation officer. Imran’s legal representatives, Barrister Salman Safdar and Khalid Yousuf Chaudhry, were also in attendance.
Qureshi’s wife and daughter, Mehreen and Mehr Bano, were present at the court, although it was not confirmed whether they were permitted to attend the hearing.
Speaking to the press before the hearing commenced, lawyer Shah Khawar noted that the court had scheduled today for the indictment. However, he recalled that in the previous hearing, Imran had declined to accept the indictment charge sheets, postponing the matter to today. He added, “Let’s see what the situation is right now.”
Regarding the FIR (First Information Report), it details that a case under sections 5 and 9 of the Official Secrets Act, 1923, read with section 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), has been registered against the former premier and former foreign minister.
They have been accused of wrongfully communicating and using official secret information and illegally retaining a cipher telegram (an official secret document) with malicious intent. The role of the former PM’s aide Muhammad Azam Khan, former federal minister Asad Umar, and other associates will be determined during the investigation process.
The FIR states that Imran, Qureshi, and their associates are involved in the dissemination of information contained in a secret classified document (cipher telegram received from Parep Washington dated March 7, 2022 to the Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to unauthorized individuals, distorting facts for their personal gain and ulterior motives, to the detriment of state security interests.
They allegedly held a covert meeting at Banigala on March 28, 2022, to conspire to misuse the contents of the cipher for their sinister purposes.
Imran, with malicious intent, purportedly instructed his former principal secretary Azam Khan to manipulate the contents of the cipher message to serve his vested interests at the expense of national security.
Furthermore, the numbered and traceable copy of the cipher telegram sent to the Prime Minister’s Office was allegedly retained by the former PM with malicious intent and was never returned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The official secret document, the cipher telegram, is still purportedly in Imran’s illegal possession and retention.
The unauthorized retention and misuse of the cipher telegram by the accused individuals are said to have compromised the entire state’s cipher security system and the confidential communication methods of Pakistani missions abroad.