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Imran Khan, Shah Mahmood Qureshi indicted in cipher case

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  • Qureshi, Khan filed plea under CrPC 265-D to stop indictment.
  • Judge rejected plea and went ahead with indictment. 
  • Court issues notices to witnesses to appear on October 27.

ISLAMABAD: A special court, formed to hear the cipher case registered under the Official Secrets Act, on Monday indicted Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PT) Chairman Imran Khan and Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

The hearing of the case was held at the Adiala jail in Rawalpindi by special court judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain.

Both the PTI leaders were indicted after they had moved a petition under CrPC 265-D to stop the indictment. The judge while rejecting the petitions stated that the hearing was fixed for indictment and went ahead with it.

Once the charges are framed, the evidence of the prosecution is recorded and the case trial begins. Subsequently, the testimonies and statements of the accused are recorded by the court.

In line with the procedure, the court issued notices to the witnesses to appear on October 27 and adjourned the hearing till then.

According to sources, Qureshi and Khan have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In the last hearing on October 17, both the PTI leaders’ indictment was deferred till today as the copies of challans submitted by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) against the PTI leaders were provided to the accused.

Judge Zulqarnain had scheduled the indictment for the next week as the accused lawyers had refused to receive the copies of the challan during the hearing before the one held on October 17.

In August of this year, Khan and Qureshi were booked under the Official Secrets Act 1923 in the cipher case after the FIA invoked Section 5 of the said law. The diplomatic cable reportedly went missing from Imran’s possession. According to the former ruling party, the cable contained a threat from the US to topple the PTI’s government.

Khan and Qureshi are currently in Adiala jail on judicial remand in the cipher case. 

Khan was taken into custody after being sentenced to three years in prison in the Toshakhana case on August 5, 2023. Initially, he was kept in Attock jail but later he was moved to Adiala jail.

It is pertinent to mention here that the IHC on August 29 had suspended the sentence handed down to the PTI chairman in the Toshakhana case.

FIA charge sheet

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

According to the sources, former PTI secretary-general Asad Umar’s name was not added to the list of accused. Meanwhile, Khan’s former principal secretary Azam Khan was also 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, that 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.

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.

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No “major breakthrough” in the opposition-led JUI-F and PTI meeting

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Maulana Fazalur Rehman stated that mending rifts in relationships and getting rid of resentment in an interview with the media in Islamabad with a team from the Tehreek-e-Tahafuz-e-Ayeen-e-Pakistan that paid him a visit.

While no significant progress was made at the meeting, all sides decided to keep in touch in order to plan for the future.

“A positive message,” according to the JUI-F chief, was received with open arms by the delegation. Taking a “united” stance on national issues was the primary goal of the meeting, he said.

Democracy is losing its appeal, and Pakistan’s parliament and constitution are losing their respect. In parliament, Maulana Fazalur Rehman continued, “we should have a single voice.”

Remarking on the event, National Assembly Opposition Leader Omar Ayub thanked the JUI-F leader for ‘warmly’ receiving the group.

We had a fruitful discussion in the meeting, he declared, urging the opposition parties to work with the PTI to “protect” the constitution.

Constitutional violations and a lack of a rule of law are the claims made by Omar Ayub. According to him, there was “no reason” why the police searched the PTI’s Islamabad central secretariat office.

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In the instance of illegal recruitment, Pervaiz Elahi is granted bail.

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The earlier-reserved court ruling was delivered by LHC Judge Sultan Tanveer Ahmad on Tuesday.

LHC had filed a post-arrest bail motion, according to the former chief minister.

On October 25, 2023, Pervaiz was taken into custody by the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE).

From June 1 to September 18, Elahi has been arrested in a number of crimes; the most recent one was reported by the Punjab ACE on September 18.

More: Pervaiz Elahi’s condition “deteriorated” in Adiala jail; he was hurried to PIMS.

In the Punjab Assembly, Elahi illegally hired 12 people for grade 17 positions, according to information provided by an ACE representative.

In the provincial assembly, the candidates were chosen through record-altering.

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The bail petition of Parvez Elahi in the Jinnah House attack case has been rejected by the ATC.

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A bail application filed by Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, a leader of the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) party, in the Jinnah House attack case has been rejected by an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) on the grounds of prematurity.

ATC Judge Arshad Javed announced the decision during today’s hearing.

The counsel representing Parvez Elahi contended that there was a significant likelihood of his client being arrested in relation to the Jinnah House attack case. It was stated that the ex-Chief Minister had previously been held in custody on judicial remand in other cases.

The petitioner requested the court to authorise the release of Parvez Elahi on bail in the Jinnah House attack case.

Nevertheless, the prosecution argued that the bail petition did not meet the necessary legal criteria, emphasising that Parvez Elahi had not been apprehended in connection with the case.

Considering these considerations, the court rejected Parvez Elahi’s request for release, stating that it was premature since he had not been arrested in the Jinnah House attack case.

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