Imran Khan moves IHC against rejection of bail plea by special court

By
Awais Yousafzai
PTI Chairman Imran Khan leaves after appearing in the Supreme Court in Islamabad on July 26, 2023. — AFP
PTI Chairman Imran Khan leaves after appearing in the Supreme Court in Islamabad on July 26, 2023. — AFP

  • Special court rejected Khan post-arrest bail plea.
  • IHC CJ to hear PTI chief's petition on Sep 18.
  • Cipher case filed under Official Secrets Act.


ISLAMABAD: Imran Khan, the chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Saturday filed a bail petition at the Islamabad High Court (IHC) challenging the special court's decision in the cipher case.

The plea by Khan, who was removed from office through a no-confidence motion in April last year, has been fixed for a hearing on Monday before Chief Justice Aamer Farooq.

The special court — established under the Official Secrets Act and hearing the case registered against the PTI chief and his party's Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi — had recently rejected the post-arrest bail applications of Khan and the senior politician, following the conclusion of arguments presented by PTI lawyers on Thursday.

The court, on Wednesday, extended Khan and Qureshi's judicial remand till September 26 in the cipher case.

Last month, the FIA booked PTI chief and his party’s vice chairman under the Official Secrets Act for allegedly misplacing and misusing the classified document for vested political interests.

Subsequently, both leaders were arrested in connection with the investigation into the case and a special court was established under the Official Secrets Act to try the accused.

The same day, the special court approved PTI leader Asad Umar’s bail in the case related to US cipher after a prosecutor told the judge that his arrest was not required at this stage.

Judge Zulqarnain approved the PTI leader's bail against the surety bond of Rs50,000 and also noted that Umar expressed willingness to join the cipher probe but the prosecution did not investigate him in the case.

“If Asad Umar's arrest is required, the FIA [Federal Investigation Agency] will proceed according to law,” the judge ordered.

He also directed the FIA to inform the PTI leader in advance before arresting him in the case.

Ciphergate

The controversy first emerged on March 27, 2022, when Khan — just days before his ouster in April 2022 — brandished a letter, claiming that it was a cipher from a foreign nation, which mentioned that his government should be removed from power.

He did not reveal the contents of the letter nor mention the name of the nation that had sent it. But a few days later, he named the United States and said that Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Affairs Donald Lu had sought his removal.

The cipher was about former Pakistan ambassador to the US Asad Majeed's meeting with Lu.

The former prime minister, claiming that he was reading contents from the cipher, said that "all will be forgiven for Pakistan if Imran Khan is removed from power".

Then on March 31, the National Security Committee (NSC) took up the matter and decided to issue a "strong demarche" to the country for its "blatant interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan".

Later, after his removal, Khan's successor Shehbaz Sharif convened another meeting of the NSC, which came to the conclusion that it had found no evidence of a foreign conspiracy in the cipher.

The cipher case against the former premier became serious after his principal secretary Azam Khan stated before a magistrate as well as the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) that the former PM had used the US cipher for his "political gains" and to avert a vote of no-confidence against him.

The former bureaucrat, in his confession, said when he provided the ex-premier with the cipher, he was "euphoric" and termed the language a "US blunder". The former prime minister, according to Azam, then said that the cable could be used for "creating a narrative against establishment and opposition".

Azam said the US cipher was used in political gatherings by the PTI chairman, despite his advice to him to avoid such acts. He mentioned that the former prime minister also told him that the cipher could be used to divert the public's attention towards "foreign involvement" in the opposition's no-confidence motion.