Politics

Imran Khan, Shah Mehmood Qureshi Indicted Over Secret Cable Leak

A special court in Pakistan on Monday (October 23) formally indicted former Prime Minister Imran Khan and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi on charges of leaking state secrets. The two leaders are accused of making public the contents of a confidential cable, commonly referred to as “cipher”, sent by Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States in March 2022.

The cipher case is one of the several cases against Imran Khan, who is already in Adiala jail on judicial remand. He was sentenced to three years in prison in August for unlawfully selling state gifts during his time as prime minister from 2018 to 2022. His conviction resulted in him being barred from contesting elections for five years. Although his prison sentence was suspended by a high court last month, his remand in the cipher case prevented his release.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) invoked Section 5 of the Official Secrets Act 1923 against Imran Khan and Qureshi in August, after they disclosed the cipher at a press conference in April. They claimed that the cipher proved that the US had pressed Pakistan’s military to orchestrate the fall of their government because they had visited Russia shortly before its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. They also alleged that the US was behind the confidence vote that Imran Khan lost in parliament in April 2022, which led to his ouster.

The FIA document stated that Imran Khan and Qureshi had violated the Official Secrets Act by “communicating or using any information which relates to and is calculated to be or might be or is intended to be directly or indirectly useful to an enemy”. It also said that they had “endangered the security, sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan”.

The special court, headed by Judge Muhammad Bashir, heard the case at the highly fortified Attock Jail, where Imran Khan is lodged. The court read out the charge sheet to Imran Khan and Qureshi, who pleaded not guilty. The court also summoned four witnesses, including FIA officials and a former foreign secretary, to record their statements at the next hearing on October 30.

Imran Khan’s lawyer, Naeem Haider Panjutha, said that his client had not committed any crime by revealing the cipher. He said that Imran Khan had only exposed the “foreign conspiracy” that had toppled his government. He also said that Imran Khan had the right to defend himself and his party against the allegations of corruption and incompetence.

Qureshi’s lawyer, Khawaja Haris, said that his client had not received any copy of the cipher from Imran Khan or anyone else. He said that Qureshi had only commented on the cipher based on what Imran Khan had said at the press conference. He also said that Qureshi had not violated any law or harmed any national interest.

The cipher case has generated much controversy and criticism in Pakistan, as it involves sensitive issues of national security and foreign relations. The opposition parties have accused Imran Khan and Qureshi of playing politics with state secrets and endangering Pakistan’s ties with its allies. They have also questioned the authenticity and credibility of the cipher, which has not been verified by any independent source.

The government has denied any involvement of the US or the military in Imran Khan’s removal. It has also dismissed his claims of being a victim of a foreign conspiracy as baseless and fabricated. It has maintained that Imran Khan had lost the confidence of parliament due to his poor performance and mismanagement of the country’s affairs.

The cipher case is likely to have a significant impact on Pakistan’s political scenario, as it comes at a time when other political parties are gearing up for the general elections, which are expected to be held in the coming months. The PTI, which is still led by Imran Khan despite his legal troubles, has vowed to continue its struggle for justice and democracy. It has also expressed its confidence that Imran Khan will be acquitted of all charges and will return to power soon.

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