Govt allows hearing for cypher case against Imran in Attock Jail
Special court judge Abul Hasnaat Zulqarnain will preside over the proceedings on Wednesday
The hearing of the cypher case against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan under the Official Secrets Act is scheduled to be held on August 30 (tomorrow) in a specially convened court within the premises of Attock Jail.
Judge Abul Hasnaat Zulqarnain, who is overseeing the cypher case, will preside over the proceedings within the confines of the prison.
The move comes after the Law Ministry gave its approval for the hearing to be conducted within the jail premises.
In a notification issued on Tuesday, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, the Ministry of Law and Justice stated that they do not object to conducting the trial of PTI chief within the premises of Attock Jail.
The Interior Ministry, expressing concerns regarding the safety of all parties involved, penned a letter detailing the security apprehensions that have contributed to this move.
Earlier in the day, the special court established to prosecute cases under the Official Secrets Act, 1923, wrote to the superintendent of the Attock jail directing him to keep Imran in “judicial lockup and produce him on 30.08.2023 before this court”.
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) had suspended the PTI chief’s sentence in the Toshakhana case and ordered his release.
A division bench of the IHC, comprising Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Tariq Mehmood Jahangir announced the much-anticipated reserved decision.
During a public gathering last year, Imran Khan drew attention to a diplomatic cable, which he alleged to be the “cypher.” In his claim, he pointed towards a supposed “foreign conspiracy” aimed at removing him from power. This assertion followed his ousting from office in April, facilitated by a vote of no-confidence.
However, the diplomatic cable reportedly went missing from Imran’s possession, casting shadows of uncertainty.
In September 2022, an audio clip surfaced on social media, purportedly featuring a conversation between Imran Khan and his then-principal secretary, Azam Khan, regarding the diplomatic cypher. In the audio, Imran Khan was heard allegedly saying, “We have to play with this. Don’t take America’s name, just play with this.” A voice attributed to Azam Khan advised convening a meeting on the subject first. Azam reportedly responded, “See, if you recall, in that [cypher] the ambassador has written in the end to [send a] demarche.”
The Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) Counter-Terrorism Wing (CTW) subsequently filed a First Information Report (FIR) against Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, another party leader. The FIR was registered under the Official Secrets Act and pertained to the missing cypher and audio leaks, prompted by a complaint from a former interior secretary following an inquiry.
According to the FIR, the roles of Imran’s former principal secretary, Azam Khan, and ex-planning minister Asad Umar will be determined during the investigation.
The FIR alleged that Imran, Qureshi, and their associates participated in disseminating information from a classified document – a cypher telegram received from Washington – to unauthorised individuals, compromising state security interests.
While Qureshi is presently under arrest and undergoing interrogation by the FIA, the CTW conducted two investigative sessions with Imran Khan within Attock Jail. During these sessions, Imran Khan provided his statement concerning the missing cypher and the audio leak.
A senior FIA official, speaking to The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity, had clarified that Imran Khan’s investigation under the Official Secrets Act had already triggered his arrest order. The official asserted that Imran’s release from Attock Jail would be contingent not only on the suspension of his Toshakhana case sentence but also on obtaining bail in the cypher case. This condition would hold true even if pleas challenging the cancellation of his bail in May 9 cases were accepted.