Cipher case: Special court orders to present Imran, Qureshi on Oct 4

Development comes after FIA declared PTI leaders accused in challan

By
Arfa Feroz Zake
Former prime minister Imran Khan (Left), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi (Right). — AFP/file
Former prime minister Imran Khan (Left), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi (Right). — AFP/file

  • Judge Abul Hasnat Zulqarnain issues notices to respondents. 
  • Superintendent of Adiala jail directed to present PTI leaders.
  • FIA submitted challan against PTI leaders last week. 


A special court established under the Official Secrets Act has summoned jailed Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and Vice-Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi on October 4 in the cipher case.

The development came two days after the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) submitted the challan (charge sheet) in the cipher case against the PTI leaders.

Special court judge Abul Hasnat Zulqarnain issued notices to respondents saying that statements of witnesses are sufficient to summon the accused in the court.

The judge directed the superintendent of Adiala jail to present the PTI leaders before the court on October 4 (Wednesday).

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

According to sources, former PTI secretary-general Asad Umar's name was not added to the list of accused. Meanwhile, Imran Khan's former principal secretary Azam Khan was named as a "strong witness" in the case.

The FIA also attached Azam's statements, recorded under Sections 161 and 164, along with the challan, said the sources, adding that the PTI chief kept the cipher to himself and misused the state secret.

The sources also said that Khan had a copy of the cipher but he did not return it.

Moreover, the FIA also attached the transcript of Khan and Qureshi's speech on March 27 — the day when the former premier brandished a letter claiming it was a cipher from a foreign nation, which wanted his government to be removed from power.

The agency also submitted a list of 28 witnesses to the court with the challan after recording their statements under Section 161.

Sources further revealed that the names of former foreign secretaries Asad Majeed, Sohail Mehmood and the then additional foreign secretary Faisal Niaz Tirmizi have also been added to the list of witnesses.

On September 26, the special court extended the judicial remand of the PTI chairman and vice-chairman till October 10 in the cipher case.

Ciphergate

The controversy first emerged on March 27, 2022, when Khan — less than a month before his ouster in April 2022 — while addressing a public rally waved a letter before the crowd, claiming that it was a cipher from a foreign nation that had conspired with his political rivals to have PTI government overthrown.

He did not reveal the contents of the letter nor did he mention the name of the nation it came from. But a few days later, he accused the United States of conspiring against him and alleged 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 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 US for its "blatant interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan".

Later, after his removal, then-prime minister Shehbaz Sharif convened a meeting of the NSC, which came to the conclusion that it had found no evidence of a foreign conspiracy in the cable.

In the two audio leaks that took the internet by storm and shocked the public after these events, the former prime minister, then-federal minister Asad Umar, and then-principle secretary Azam could allegedly be heard discussing the US cipher and how to use it to their advantage.

On September 30, the federal cabinet took notice of the matter and constituted a committee to probe the contents of the audio leaks.

In October, the cabinet gave the green signal to initiate action against the former prime minister and handed over the case to the FIA.

Once FIA was given the task to probe the matter, it summoned Khan, Umar, and other leaders of the party, but the PTI chief challenged the summons and secured a stay order from the court.

The Lahore High Court (LHC), in July this year, recalled the stay order against the call-up notice to Khan by the FIA.