PTI's Shah Mahmood Qureshi approaches SC for bail in cipher case

Qureshi's plea challenges the IHC's decision dismissing his post-arrest bail on the aforementioned date

Maryam Nawaz
PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi (Left) addressing a press conference in Islamabad — NNI/File
PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi (Left) addressing a press conference in Islamabad — NNI/File

  • IHC did not properly assess the facts in the matter, claims petitioner.
  • Says politically-motivated case made against him.
  • Qureshi accused of using secret document for vested interests.

Incarcerated Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi Monday moved the Supreme Court to seek post-arrest bail in the cipher case, requesting it to annul the Islamabad High Court's decision of November 8.

The former foreign minister's plea challenges the IHC's decision to dismiss his post-arrest bail petition on the aforementioned date.

The petition, filed on behalf of the senior politician earlier today, stated that the IHC did not properly assess the facts in the matter.

"A baseless and politically-motivated case has been made against the petitioner," the plea read.

The petition also mentioned that the courts did not give due consideration to the core principles of bail as held by the superior courts.

It also mentioned that the IHC order failed to give due consideration to the fact that the petitioner's role is distinguishable from that of the principal accused and that the only allegations against the petitioner as mentioned in the challan (charge sheet) dated March 3 are that of a speech given in a public gathering.

Qureshi's bail plea was filed after PTI Chairman Imran Khan earlier this month had also filed a plea in the Supreme Court seeking post-arrest bail in the cipher case.

In his 18-page bail plea, the PTI chief, through his counsel Barrister Salman Safdar, had put before 15 legal questions regarding the cipher case.

The PTI chief had prayed to the Supreme Court to grant him post-arrest bail in the case in the “interest of justice and fairplay”.

On October 27, the IHC rejected the pleas of Khan seeking bail and cancellation of the first information report (FIR) in the cipher case.

IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq had announced the court order which was reserved on October 16 after arguments were completed from both sides.

Khan had challenged the registration of the FIR and sought bail in the case filed against him and the party’s vice Qureshi for misusing the secret document for political gains.

A special court formed under the Official Secrets Act has indicted both party leaders. They are currently incarcerated at the Adiala jail.

What is 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.