ISLAMABAD: A special court, established under the Official Secrets Act, has postponed the hearing of the cipher case involving Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and Vice-Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi until October 9, with no proceedings conducted on Wednesday.
The proceedings were presided over by Special Court Judge Abul Hasnat Zulqarnain at Adiala jail, as per the Ministry of Law’s notification. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) team and the special prosecutor were present during the hearing.
A 12-member team of PTI leaders, including Barrister Salman Safdar, Sardar Latif Khosa, Raja Yasir, Naeem Haider Panjutha, Barrister Umair Khan Niazi, Chaudhary Khalid Yusuf, Niazullah Khan Niazi, Rai Muhammad Ali, and others, were allowed to attend the hearing at Adiala jail.
PTI’s legal representatives raised objections to conducting the case hearing at Adiala jail and requested the court to postpone the proceedings until the Islamabad High Court (IHC) makes a decision on their plea challenging the closed-door trial of their clients.
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has reserved its verdict on the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) request for an in-camera hearing regarding the bail application of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan in the cipher case.
The FIA argued that an open court hearing could potentially harm Pakistan’s diplomatic relations with other countries if the matter is discussed publicly.
During the recent hearing, PTI’s legal team refused to accept a copy of the FIA’s charge sheet, which had been submitted to the court the previous week.
Both PTI leaders, Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, were present in the courtroom. They are currently on judicial remand until October 10 in connection with the cipher case.
A significant police presence was observed outside the Rawalpindi prison.
The FIA’s charge sheet alleges that both former prime minister Imran Khan and vice-chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi were involved in the matter and requests the court to conduct their trial and impose sentences in the case.
According to sources, former PTI secretary-general Asad Umar’s name is not included in the list of accused individuals. However, Khan’s former principal secretary, Azam Khan, is designated as a “strong witness” in the case.
The FIA has also attached Azam’s statements, recorded under Sections 161 and 164, along with the charge sheet, alleging that Imran Khan kept the cipher to himself and misused it as a state secret. Additionally, the transcript of Khan and Qureshi’s speech on March 27, the day when Khan displayed a letter claiming it was a cipher from a foreign nation seeking his government’s removal, was included.
The FIA submitted a list of 28 witnesses to the court with the charge sheet after recording their statements under Section 161. Notably, 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.
In the past month, the FIA charged both Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi under the Official Secrets Act for allegedly mishandling and exploiting a classified document for political gain. The FIR against the PTI leaders alleges that they communicated information from a secret classified document to the unauthorized public, distorting facts to serve their personal interests, and jeopardizing state security.
The controversy, known as Ciphergate, began in March 2022 when Imran Khan, during a public rally, waved a letter alleging it was a cipher from a foreign nation conspiring against his government. He accused the United States of conspiring against him but did not disclose the letter’s contents or the nation it came from.
Subsequently, the National Security Committee (NSC) issued a demarche to the US, and after Imran Khan’s removal from office, the NSC found no evidence of a foreign conspiracy in the cable.
Audio leaks later emerged, in which Imran Khan, Asad Umar, and Azam Khan allegedly discussed the US cipher and how to use it to their advantage.
On September 30, the federal cabinet took notice of the matter and formed a committee to investigate the audio leaks. In October, the cabinet authorized the FIA to take action against Imran Khan, leading to the ongoing investigation and legal proceedings.
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