FIA lists 28 witnesses in cipher case

Special Court judge defers Imran and Qureshi's indictment until October 23

​ Our Correspondents October 17, 2023
A file photo of ousted premier Imran Khan and former interior minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. PHOTO: EXPRESS


The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has submitted a list of 28 witnesses in the cypher case against PTI Chairman Imran Khan and Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi, according to a copy of the indictment.

A special court established under the Official Secrets Act (OSA), 1923, to try the case inside Adiala Jail deferred the indictment of the two leaders until October 23. FIA Prosecutor Shah Khawar informed the court that copies of the indictment papers, or challan, had been handed over to the accused.

The special court, presided over by Judge Abual Hasnat Muhammad Zulqarnain, had originally scheduled the indictment of the accused for Tuesday. A day earlier, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) disposed of a petition by the PTI chairman against his trial inside the jail premises.

The cypher case pertains to a document waved by Imran, the then prime minister, at a public rally in March last year, terming it as evidence of a foreign conspiracy behind the no-confidence motion he faced at that time. The motion was carried a few weeks later, leading to the end of Imran's government.

According to the challan papers, both Imran and Qureshi, who was the foreign minister at that time, have been declared as accused. Imran was accused of violating the prime minister's oath by revealing the cypher at a public rally on March 27, 2022, and in the national and international media.

Read OSA Section 5 doesn't apply to Imran, IHC told

The papers allege that Imran misused the state secret, while Qureshi assisted him by delivering a speech at the same March 27 rally. The CD of Imran and Qureshi's speeches at the rally and their transcript have been attached to the challan. The prosecution has requested the court to punish both accused.

In addition, the challan contains a list of 28 witnesses, along with the statements of 27 witnesses, including Azam Khan, who was the principal secretary to the then prime minister Imran, recorded under Section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

According to the challan papers, Azam Khan said in his statement that Imran hatched a plan against the army high command for political purposes, intending to pressure the institutions to help him defeat the no-confidence motion.

Khan said in his statement that on March 8, 2022, he received a phone call from the then-foreign secretary, who informed him about sending the cypher to the Prime Minister's Office. The foreign secretary told him to present the copy to the prime minister on March 9.

According to Azam Khan's statement, then-Foreign Minister Qureshi had already informed Imran about the cypher issue. It added that Imran read the cypher and termed it "an American blunder." However, then he asked him to create an effective narrative against the opposition and institutions.

Khan further said that he gave the copy of the cypher to Imran when he asked for it, saying that he wanted to read it further. According to Khan, Imran kept the copy and when he asked for its return, he replied that it was misplaced.

Azam Khan alleged that the former prime minister wanted to present the cypher to the public as a foreign conspiracy. He added that Imran obtained the copy of the cypher and later said the copy was lost. In general, the cypher was sent back through the same channel it came from.

Read more ‘Don’t give up, time of trial to end soon’: Imran’s message to supporters

Other witnesses in the challan included Yusuf Naseem Khokhar, as complainant; Aftab Akbar Durrani; Asad Majeed; Dr Haseeb bin Aziz; Sajid Mehmood; Faisal Niaz Tirmzi; Nauman Bashir; Mohammad Ashfaq; Haseeb Gohar and a technical expert at the Cipher Crime Wing.

Asad Majeed, who had sent the cypher to the foreign ministry while he was the Pakistani ambassador to the US, said in his statement that the misuse of the cypher by the former prime minister had damaged the communication system of Pakistan.

Majeed, who later retired from the post of foreign secretary, also said that the episode affected the credibility of Pakistani diplomats and future diplomacy. In his statement, according to the challan papers, he said he had not met or held any conversation with Imran since March 7.

Majeed, according to the challan, said in his statement, recorded under Section 161 of the CrPC, that he had invited Donald Lou, the assistant secretary of the US Department of State, on March 7, adding that the meeting that took place at the Pakistan House in Washington was already scheduled for lunch.

According to the challan, the foreign ministry said that all copies of the cypher, except for the one that was sent to the then prime minister and went missing later on, had been destroyed. The papers alleged that the cipher copy sent to Imran was not returned, and that he kept the copy illegally and misused it.

During a hearing of the cipher case, Prosecutor Shah Khawar informed the judge that copies of the challan and other necessary documents had been provided to the accused. The judge then fixed the date of October 23 for the indictment and stated that there would be no other proceedings on that day.

Meanwhile, a defense lawyer raised an objection to the jail trial of Qureshi. When the prosecutor pointed out that Qureshi's jail trial had been notified, the defense lawyer said that the notification was issued on Tuesday, making all proceedings on the previous dates illegal.

Also during the hearing, the judge ordered authorities to remove the iron-bar cage used for presenting the accused in court, following the strong objection raised by the defense counsel. The judge said that the hearings of the case would be held in an open court.

In Lahore, petitions against the rejection of interim bail for the PTI chairman will be taken up by Justice Aalia Neelum of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday (today). Imran had challenged the cancellation of bail by lower courts in seven different cases, including the Jinnah House attack case.

The petition, filed through Barrister Salman Safdar Advocate, names the Superintendent of the Attock Jail and others as parties. It asserts that the petitioner is being subjected to political revenge and requests the LHC to order the anti-terrorism court to hear the bail pleas on merit.


Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ