Cipher case: Official Secrets Act courts summoned Imran Khan, Shah Mehmood

Cipher case: Official Secrets Act courts summoned Imran Khan, Shah Mehmood

In Islamabad, the Official Secrets Act court has issued notices for October 4 to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the cypher case. The court proceedings began officially with Judge Abul Hasnaat Zulqarnain presiding, following the submission of the Federal Investigation Agency's challan, which named the two PTI leaders as accused individuals.

Last week, the FIA alleged that former Prime Minister Imran Khan had violated the Official Secrets Act, 1923, by possessing a diplomatic cypher unlawfully, thereby warranting legal repercussions. In their charge-sheet submitted to a special court, the agency also accused Qureshi of aiding Imran and mentioned his speech at a public rally in Islamabad on March 27, 2022.

The FIA declared both Imran and Qureshi guilty of breaching the Official Secrets Act and requested the special court judge to conduct a trial and impose penalties on these prominent PTI leaders.

On March 27, 2022, just before facing a vote of no-confidence leading to his removal, former Prime Minister Imran displayed a piece of paper, allegedly a diplomatic cypher, at a public rally, claiming it as evidence of an "international conspiracy" against his government.

The 'cypher-gate' investigation began on July 19, 2023, after the PML-N-led coalition government initiated an official inquiry into the alleged misuse of a classified document by the former PM and his associates, violating the Official Secrets Act, 1923.

Qureshi, who had served as the country's foreign minister during the PTI's rule, was arrested on August 19, while Imran was arrested on August 29. Notably, the FIA did not include PTI former secretary general Asad Umar among the accused.

However, Imran's former principal secretary, Azam Khan, has been named as a witness in the case, and his testimony under Sections 161 and 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure is attached to the charge-sheet. The charge-sheet also includes transcripts of the speeches delivered by Imran and Qureshi at the March 27, 2022 rally.

The FIA has submitted a list of 28 witnesses to the court, with statements from 27 of them attached to the challan. These witnesses include former foreign secretaries Asad Majeed and Sohail Mehmood, as well as Additional Foreign Secretary Faisal Niaz Timrizi. Copies of the charge-sheet are expected to be provided to Imran and Qureshi at the next court hearing, after which the court will proceed with the indictment.

In response to the charge-sheet, the PTI spokesperson categorically rejected the charges presented by the FIA, characterizing the submitted challan as "devoid of substance." The spokesperson criticized the allegations against PTI Chairman Imran Khan and Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi, asserting that they were "as baseless as the alleged cypher case itself."