Imran, Qureshi indicted in cypher case

Former premier and foreign minister plead 'not guilty'; witnesses summoned on Oct 27

Qaiser Sherazi October 23, 2023
A file photo of ousted premier Imran Khan and former interior minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. PHOTO: EXPRESS


Former prime minister Imran Khan and ex-foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi pleaded 'not guilty' on Monday as the two Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders were indicted in the cypher case.

The indictment came as the court rejected Imran's plea seeking deferment in the process.

During the hearing, prosecutor Shah Khawar termed the plea a "delaying tactic" and requested the court to reject it, stating that today's hearing was fixed only for indictment.  

Presiding over the hearing, Judge Abul Hasnaat Zulqarnain of the special court - formed to hear cases under the Official Secrets Act - summoned government officials listed as witnesses in the case for October 27.

"This is a false, fabricated case, designed to exact political revenge. Will prove my innocence," the PTI chief was reported to have said as he denied the charges.

Addressing the media outside the Adiala jail, - where the former premier's in-camera jail trial is being held - his lawyer Usman Riaz Gul said that although today was fixed for indictment "[we] requested for the process to be deferred till full statements of the witnesses as well as the seizure memo were provided to the accused".

"Both PTI chairman and Shah Mahmood Qureshi had written while signing that they will not be able to respond to the indictment charges until provided with all the documents of the case," he added.

However, the court rejected the arguments of the former premier's legal team and proceeded with the indictment process.

Read In-camera trial under century-old law unconstitutional: Imran's lawyer

Another lawyer from Imran's legal team, Umair Niazi, told the media that the former premier had denied the charges, adding that the indictment will be challenged in the high court.

The cypher

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

Last week, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) submitted a list of 28 witnesses in the cypher case against the PTI chairman and vice chairman, according to a copy of the indictment.

The special court 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.

Earlier in October, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) clubbed Imran’s other petitions, seeking dismissal of the case and stopping his trial by the special court, established under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).

The PTI chairman filed another plea in the IHC seeking exemption under the Article 248. In the petition, it was stated that the Section 5 of the OSA did not apply to the cypher case.

The court had issued a notice to the FIA and sought its response by Monday (today). The court also clubbed the petition with Imran’s other pleas against the case.

Imran had also filed a separate petition with the IHC challenging the FIA's request to hold the case's proceedings inside the jail premises. However, the high court disposed of the plea last week after observing that an in-camera trial was in the PTI chief's favour, asking him to approach the trial court regarding the matter.


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