US State Dept avoids detailed comment on Imran Khan's cipher case sentence

"It’s a matter for the Pakistani courts," says US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller

Wajid Ali Syed
US Department of State Spokesperson Matthew Miller. — US State Department
US Department of State Spokesperson Matthew Miller. — US State Department

  • "We... do not have any comments on the sentencing," says Miller.
  • He adds prosecution of former prime minister is a "legal matter".
  • He says Washington wants to see a free, fair, open democratic polls.

WASHINGTON: The United States State Department avoided commenting in detail on the 10-year sentence handed to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder Imran Khan in the cipher case, The News reported on Wednesday.

Addressing the daily press briefing on Tuesday, the department's spokesperson Matthew Miller said: "It’s a matter for the Pakistani courts."

He maintained that Khan's sentencing was a legal matter ultimately for the Pakistani courts.

"We have been following the case, cases I should say — plural, brought against the former prime minister but do not have any comments on the sentencing,” he said.

Both Khan and party leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi have been sentenced to 10 years, each, in the cipher case which pertains to allegations that the former prime minister had made public contents of a secret cable sent by the country's ambassador in Washington to the government in Islamabad. 

It is the second conviction for the embattled PTI founder in recent months. He was previously sentenced to three years in a corruption case. While his jail term was suspended as he challenged the corruption conviction, it had already ruled him out of the general elections next month.

Miller, when commenting on the sentencing, added that the prosecution of the former prime minister is a legal matter and the State Department would "defer to Pakistani courts concerning legal matters but of course, we want to see the democratic process unfolding in a way that allows broad participation for all parties and respects democratic principles".

Responding to another related question, he said the US does not take a position about internal Pakistani matters or with respect to candidates for office in Pakistan.

"We want to see a free, fair and open democratic process and when it comes to legal matters it’s for Pakistani courts to decide,” he said adding that Washington continues to call for the respect of democratic principles, human rights and the rule of law in Pakistan as around the world.

The spokesperson also said that the US certainly wants to see a free and fair election and will be monitoring how that proceeds over the next week to 10 days.

"There are areas for improvement that we would welcome in Pakistan but there’s not an assessment that we have made in this specific case," said Miller.

When asked about the serving of notices to 47 journalists by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for running a smear campaign against the country's judiciary, Miller refused to comment, adding that he's not familiar with the reports.

When questioned about US President Joe Biden's policy on Pakistan and if he has gained more respect in the ordinary eyes of Pakistani people, Miller responded by saying that he will not speak to the views of the people of Pakistan.

"They can obviously speak for themselves, but we have engaged to promote stability in the region, to advance democracy in Pakistan, and to deepen economic ties between the United States and Pakistan, which will ultimately improve the lives of the Pakistani people," he said, adding that Washington will continue to pursue this policy.