Cipher case: Special court grants Imran Khan permission for phone call with sons

"Concerns of PTI chairman's family and his constitutional rights cannot be overlooked," court says

Arfa Feroz Zake
Prime Minister Imran Khan with his sons, Sulaiman and Qasim. — Facebook/Imran Khan
Prime Minister Imran Khan with his sons, Sulaiman and Qasim. — Facebook/Imran Khan

  • Judge issued order during open court hearing of Khan's petition.
  • PTI chief filed plea against Attock jail superintendent  on Sep 11.
  • Khan's lawyer says Federal Shariat Court allows phone calls for accused.

ISLAMABAD: The special court judge, Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain, granted permission to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan to have phone conversations with his sons, despite his current imprisonment in the cipher case.

The judge, in a one-page written order, directed the Adiala jail superintendent to ensure that Khan speaks to his sons over the phone. The order was issued pertaining to the cipher case proceedings in special court established under the Official Secrets Act of 2023.

The deposed prime minister, whose government was ousted after a no-confidence motion in April 2022, had submitted a plea to the special court on September 11, seeking contempt of court against Attock jail superintendent who refused to allow him to speak with his sons, despite court orders issued previously in this regard.

At the time of filing the plea, Khan was in judicial custody at the Attock jail till September 13 in the cipher case since his arrest on August 5 after a trial convicted him in the Toshakhana case.

He was earlier granted permission by the special court, formed to hear cases registered under the Official Secrets Act, to speak to his sons. However, the PTI chief in the petition sought contempt of court proceedings against the Attock jail superintendent for violating the court’s order.

Meanwhile, the Attock jail authorities, in their reply to the contempt of court petition, argued that jail rules do not allow the accused facing charges under the Official Secrets Act to speak over the phone.

The superintendent contended that the court order permitting Khan to contact his sons was not violated. "According to the Prisoners Act, 1978, prisoners are not allowed to make calls on foreign telephone numbers," he wrote.

The former premier is currently imprisoned at the Adiala jail in Rawalpindi.

'PTI chief's constitutional rights can't be overlooked'

According to the Adiala jail superintendent, the court said, the jail manual does not allow the accused to have a telephone conversation and communicate abroad.

"The concerns of the PTI chairman's family and his constitutional rights cannot be overlooked," the court maintained.

During the course of the hearing, as the court awaited submission of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) regarding telephone conversations by the Adiala jail superintendent, an interesting exchange between the judge and Khan's counsel, Shiraz Ahmed Ranjha, took place.

The lawyer said Imran Khan be provided with a bicycle for exercise in jail.

Responding to the request, the judge jokingly said: "I have already told the jail authorities regarding the bicycle. I don't want the bicycle to be misused and driven by the jail superintendent instead."

"If the court allows, I will provide the bicycle today. If there are concerns, appoint a person to supervise the use of the bicycle," the lawyer said, requesting the judge.

Meanwhile, the judge insisted that the court has to look at the jail manual, as the security of an under-trial accused is crucial.

When the SOPs regarding telephone conversations were presented to the court, the judge said that the accused was not allowed to speak on a phone call, as per its content.

Khan's lawyer contended that the accused is not prohibited from having a telephone conversation with his family under the Official Secrets Act. "According to the Prisoner's Rules, a meeting with the wife and children is allowed for 12 hours in jail."

He also insisted that a telephone conversation is allowed for other accused. "All prisoners can make telephone calls on Saturday."

He also told the court to issue a show-cause notice to the Attock jail superintendent for making a wrong statement.

"Show me the written permission to speak abroad in the prison manual," the judge asked Ranjha.

"It is not allowed in the prison manual, but the Federal Shariat Court has issued a decision in this regard," the lawyer contested, submitting of the Federal Shariat Court's relevant verdict before the judge.

He then went on to authorise permission for the PTI chairman to speak to his sons over a phone call.