The federal cabinet gave its go-ahead on Sunday to initiating legal action against former premier Imran Khan, his key cabinet ministers and his principal secretary Azam Khan in connection with the audio leaks where the former rulers discussed how to “play on cipher”.
The approval came on the recommendation of a committee which was formed by the cabinet on Friday to deliberate and recommend actions regarding the conversation “available on the internet regarding the Cipher Message received from Parep Washington (Cypher No. I-0678 dated 7th March 2022) (Annex-I)”.
On Saturday, the committee recommended that “it is a matter of national security, which is/was pre-judicial to national interest and needs legal action”. Therefore, it added, “the apex investigation agency (FIA) may be directed to inquire into the matter by constituting a team of senior officers, which may co-opt officers/officials from other intelligence agencies for the purpose, and to proceed further against the perpetrators in accordance with the law”.
Following the recommendations, the cabinet gave its nod to the investigation and legal action against Imran, Azam Khan, and the relevant former ministers through the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
There were two audio leaks about the cipher, which the former prime minister had touted in March, weeks before his exit from the government through a no-confidence vote, that it proved that there was a foreign conspiracy against his government.
The first audio surfaced on September 28, while the other came out on September 30. Purportedly, it emerged from the leaks that former prime minister Imran, his then principal secretary Azam Khan and members of his cabinet, Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Asad Umar were consulting about using the classified diplomatic cable for political purposes.
Recently, the federal cabinet had accused Imran of “sacrificing key national interests for political gains” by giving fictitious meaning to a diplomatic cipher, saying that the former premier had violated his oath and the “Official Secrets Act”.
The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday, also noted that the copy of the diplomatic cipher was missing from the records of the Prime Minister’s House.
The former ruling party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), has been at the centre of criticism after leak of a 1.09-minute-long audio, purportedly revealing the conversation among Imran, Umar, Azam and Qureshi discussing the “threat cipher”.
Since his ouster from the office, former prime minister Imran has been claiming that US was behind the regime-change in Pakistan.
Surprisingly, the members of the ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) who once appeared to be convinced that there was no such thing as “cipher threat” are now busy holding Imran and his aides responsible for generating controversy on the cipher and “playing” with it.
For a long time, successive governments have been embroiled in audio and video leak scandals but there has never been a comprehensive inquiry into any such incident. On every occasion, the rival parties go for each other’s throat but the truth lay somewhere between the allegations and denials.
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