A special court in Pakistan on Monday ruled that jailed former prime minister Imran Khan and his close aide ex-foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi would be indicted again on December 12 in the cipher case for allegedly leaking state secrets and violating the laws of the country. Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqernain heard the case in the Adiala Jail Rawalpindi where the two leaders have been incarcerated in the case.
The in-prison hearing of Khan, 71, and Qureshi, 67, began from the start on Saturday after a ruling by the Islamabad High Court last month declared the jail trial illegal on procedural grounds and also nullified its proceedings. The judge said that fresh indictment was mandatory in the light of the Islamabad High Court judgment which declared all proceedings illegal after ruling against the jail trial on procedural grounds.
It resulted in a fresh process to initiate an in-prison trial of the due after completing all procedures and starting the case from the start. Hence, it announced to indict them on the next hearing fixed for December 12.
Khan has been incarcerated at the high-security Adiala jail since September 26. Qureshi was also arrested in the cipher (secret diplomatic cable) case and is imprisoned in the same prison.
The hearing of the cipher case was again shifted to jail after the order by the trial judge, followed by its approval by the Cabinet and notifications issued by the Ministry of Law and Justice as required under the law.
On Monday, Judge Zulqernain adjourned the hearing till December 12 and said charges would be framed against the PTI leaders of the same day.
Meanwhile, Khan’s lawyer Babar Awan told the media that the former premier asked the court to summon the ex-army general and a US embassy representative in the cipher case. “Imran Khan has said that the US embassy representative should be called and he also took the name of a former general,” Awan said during an informal conversation with journalists.
The Dawn newspaper reported that Awan stopped short of naming the former top army general but media persons who attended the cipher case hearing today said Khan named former army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, the cricketer-turned-politician predicted that his party would win the February 8 polls, adding that he was arrested under a plan. He also said that he did not face any difficulties in jail.
Khan also spoke about the allegations put forward against him by Khawar Maneka – the former husband of his wife Bushra Bibi. He stated that he saw his wife’s face for the first time after their nikkah.
The former prime minister also claimed that Bushra’s sons were being forced to give a statement against their mother.
Meanwhile, Qureshi, the co-accused in the cipher case, said that the PTI was in his heart and no one could take it out of there. “I do not need any post in PTI anymore,” Qureshi told journalists.
Family members and lawyers of the incarcerated leaders attended the hearing along with special prosecutor Zulfikar Abbas Naqvi and Rizwan Abbasi. Six members of the media were allowed to attend the proceedings.
Why Imran Khan is facing the Official Secrets Act?
The cipher case was launched in August this year after a case was filed against Khan for allegedly violating the Official Secrets Act by disclosing a secret diplomatic cable – called the cipher – sent by the country’s embassy in Washington in March last year. The diplomatic cable reportedly went missing from Khan’s possession.
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on September 30 filed the charge sheet against Khan and Qureshi who signed its copies. The FIA invoked in the charge sheet sections 5 and 9 of the Official Secrets Act which may lead to a death sentence, or two to 14 years’ imprisonment if convicted.
Khan and Qureshi, who had claimed that the cable contained a threat from the United States to topple the PTI’s government, were indicted on October 23. Both Khan and Qureshi have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Khan was ousted through a vote of no-confidence in April 2022. More than 150 cases have been registered against him since his ouster from power.
(With inputs from agency)