Cipher Case: Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi Indicted Again

Former prime minister Imran Khan and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the founder and vice-chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), were indicted for the second time in the cipher case by a special court on Wednesday.

The cipher case relates to the alleged misuse of a diplomatic cable by the PTI leaders for political purposes. The cable, which reportedly went missing from Imran Khan’s possession, contained a threat from the US to topple the PTI government in 2022.

The special court, established under the Official Secrets Act 2023, framed charges against the PTI leaders after rejecting their petitions to stop the indictment. The PTI leaders pleaded not guilty and denied any involvement in the offence.

This was the second indictment of the PTI leaders in the case. They were first indicted on October 23 this year, but they challenged the indictment in the Islamabad High Court (IHC), which declared their jail trial as null and void on November 21.

The IHC ruled that the jail trial, which was approved by the caretaker federal cabinet and the law ministry, was unlawful and had no legal effect. The IHC also stated that the jail trial could only be conducted in exceptional circumstances and in accordance with the procedure provided by law.

However, the federal cabinet approved the summary of holding the jail trial of the PTI leaders again on November 14, following which the trial resumed in Adiala jail in Rawalpindi.

The PTI leaders are currently in Adiala jail, where the regular trial of the cipher case will begin and the evidence of the prosecution will be recorded.

The case was heard by Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain on Tuesday and Wednesday, during which the family members of the PTI leaders and a few reporters were present in the courtroom.

The PTI lawyers, Usman Gul and Barrister Taimur Malik, submitted six separate petitions in the court on Tuesday, pertaining to incomplete documents in the case challan, media access and jail trial notification.

They also argued that the proceedings were being conducted in a hasty manner and that the PTI had challenged two verdicts issued under the Official Secrets Act in the IHC.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) prosecutors, Shah Khawar and Zulfiqar Abbas Naqvi, appeared in the court and urged the court to complete the indictment process. They also highlighted that the IHC had not stopped the special court from conducting the proceedings.

Judge Zulqarnain said he would take all the decisions on the basis of merit and that he was hearing the case impartially.

The FIA, in its challan, stated that the former prime minister and the vice-chairman were found guilty in the matter and requested the court to conduct their trial and sentence them in the case.

The FIA also attached the statements of Imran Khan’s former principal secretary Azam Khan, who was named as a strong witness in the case, and a list of 28 witnesses, whose statements were recorded under Section 161.

The FIA also submitted the transcript of Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s speech on March 27, 2022, when the former prime minister brandished the letter claiming it was a cipher from a foreign nation that wanted his government to be removed from power.

The PTI leaders have moved the Supreme Court against their indictment in the cipher case and have sought post-arrest bail. They have also contended that the case was politically motivated and that the state machinery was being used to create fake cases against them.

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