Legal proceedings update: Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi to face indictment on October 17 in the cipher case.

Cipher case

In Islamabad, the special court has announced that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi will face indictment in the cipher case on October 17. The two PTI leaders were presented before Special Court Judge Abul Hasnat Zulqarnain in a court established at Adiala jail, where they are currently detained.

The indictment date was set after the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) provided copies of the challan (charge sheet) to the accused’s counsels. The court also issued notices to government witnesses following this development, and the hearing was subsequently adjourned.

During a previous hearing, PTI lawyers raised objections to holding the case’s proceedings in Adiala jail and requested the court to postpone the hearing until the Islamabad High Court (IHC) decides on their plea challenging the in-camera trial of their clients. On the same day, the IHC ruled that the hearing of PTI chief Imran Khan’s bail plea would take place in an open court.

In the FIA’s challan, it was stated that both Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi were found guilty in the case, and the FIA requested the court to conduct their trial and pass sentences accordingly. Notably, the former PTI secretary-general, Asad Umar, was not added to the list of accused. However, Khan’s former principal secretary, Azam Khan, was 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, alleging that Imran Khan had kept the cipher to himself and misused the state secret. The FIA further submitted a transcript of Khan and Qureshi’s speech on March 27, the day when Khan brandished a letter, claiming it was a cipher from a foreign nation that wanted his government removed from power.

Additionally, the FIA presented a list of 28 witnesses to the court, including former foreign secretaries Asad Majeed, Sohail Mehmood, and the then additional foreign secretary Faisal Niaz Tirmizi.

Last month, the FIA booked Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi under the Official Secrets Act for allegedly mishandling and misusing a classified document for their political interests.

The ciphergate controversy began on March 27, 2022, when Imran Khan, during a public rally, waved a letter, alleging it was a cipher from a foreign nation that conspired with his political rivals to overthrow the PTI government. Subsequently, he accused the United States of conspiring against him.

The controversy escalated with audio leaks purportedly featuring Khan, Asad Umar, and Azam discussing the US cipher and how to use it to their advantage. The federal cabinet took notice of the matter in October, leading to the initiation of action against the former prime minister, which was later handed over to the FIA. Khan initially challenged FIA’s summons but later faced it after the Lahore High Court recalled the stay order.

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