Imran, Qureshi to be indicted in cipher case on 17th

Accused PTI leaders refuse to receive copies of charge-sheet

Qaiser Sherazi/Fiaz Mahmood October 09, 2023
Former prime minister Imran Khan publicly displaying the purported US cypher during a public gathering. SCREENGRAB



A special court established under the Official Secrets Act formally commenced the cipher case trial of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday, setting October 17 as the date of their indictment.

Special Court Judge Abul Hasanat Zulqarnain ordered the distribution of the copies of the charge-sheet among the accused, rejecting the defence’s plea for delaying the process until the reserved ruling of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on their plea against the in-prison trial was announced.

However, both Imran and Qureshi refused to receive the copies of the charge-sheet and sign the relevant documents. Their lawyers complained that the law and the rules were not being followed, and that they would challenge the decision in the IHC.

At the outset of the hearing, Imran and Qureshi were presented in the court in a cage, leading to a strong protest from the defence lawyers. Later, the court allowed the presentation of the two as ordinary accused.

The defence lawyers requested the judge to postpone the distribution of the copies of the charge-sheet until the reserved IHC decision was announced. However, the judge rejected the request. He said that the accused would be indicted on October 17.

The PTI chairman told the court that he was not asking for any additional facilities in the Adiala Jail, but only those in accordance with the Jail Manual. He complained that he did not have the facility of walk and exercise in the jail.

The judge said that he would inspect his jail cell and give his order. Later, the Judge made a surprise visit to the cells of Imran and Qureshi inside the jail. He ordered the jail authorities to tear down a wall of Imran’s cell to provide additional space for walk.

Talking to reporters after the hearing, Imran’s lawyer Sher Afzal Marwat said that the PTI chairman did not sign the copy of the challan [charge-sheet]. However, he added that the copies had been taken without signing, as the defence side would challenge it in the IHC.

He revealed that there were verbal exchanges in the court, alleging that the judge's conduct was also aggressive, while the PTI chairman’s tone was also high. The PTI chairman said that he had lost confidence in the entire system, the lawyer said.

The cipher case pertains to a diplomatic document which reportedly went missing from Imran’s possession. Previously, the PTI chief had alleged that the document was the evidence of a foreign conspiracy for removal of his government through a no-confidence motion in April last year.

Imran was arrested and shifted to Attock Jail on August 5, 2023, after an Islamabad court sentenced him to three years in prison in the Toshakhana case. Following the suspension of his sentence by the IHC, he was arrested in the cipher case and remained incarcerated on judicial remand.

The PTI chief was shifted to Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail from Attock district jail on his appeal in the IHC. On September 26, both the PTI leaders’ judicial remand was extended until October 10. On September 30, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) declared Imran and Qureshi as principal accused in the case.

Bail application

Meanwhile, Imran’s lawyer Salman Safdar opened his arguments on the PTI chief’s bail plea in the IHC. He argued that previously, the Official Secrets Act had always been applied under the Army, Navy or Air Force Act against military officers in defence matters.

He added that the act was a 100-year-old law, in which there was no mention of cipher. He added the act was amended three days after the registration of the case against the PTI chairman, which showed mala fide intention. He said that Imran had not been remanded even for a single day.

Safdar said that the petitioner was 71-year-old and headed a big political party. He said that Imran was a political prisoner and cases had been filed against him by his political opponents – nearly 200 cases across the country, out of which 40 in Islamabad alone. Later, the hearing was postponed till Thursday.

Separately, an IHC division bench led by Chief Justice Aamir Farooq and including Justice Babar Sattar issued notices on the PTI chief’s petition against the rejection of his bail pea by the accountability court in the £ 190 million corruption case and the Toshakhana case.

The same bench also heard Imran’s appeal for suspending the judgment of the sessions court in the Toshakhana criminal case against him. The court said that it would issue an appropriate order on the matter as per the law.

Meanwhile, Imran’s lawyer Sher Afzal Marwat filed an intra-court appeal in the IHC, seeking permission for allowing the PTI chief’s meeting with his family, personal physician and his lawyers in the jai.
The petition also challenged the IHC order of September 25.

The petition said that on September 25, the IHC ordered the transfer of Imran from the Attock District Jail to the Adiala Jail. The order also stated that Imran be provided better class facilities in the jail but it did not order for his meetings with his family, lawyer and physician.

The petition said that only Monday had been fixed for Imran’s meeting with his wife and sisters, while only Thursday had been fixed for the meetings with his lawyers.

The petition requested the court that the September 25 order be amended to allow Imran’s meetings on more days.


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