‘State counsel’ represents Imran in cipher case

Despite PTI leaders’ protest, public defenders cross-examine nine witnesses

Our Correspondent January 27, 2024


In an interesting development, public counsels — appointed by a special court judge — represented former prime minister Imran Khan and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the diplomatic cipher case, despite protests from PTI leaders.

The counsels even concluded cross-examination of nine prosecution witnesses. The cross-examination practically took place in-camera as Special Court Judge Abual Hasnat Muhammad Zulqarnain ordered all journalists and the accused’s family members to leave the courtroom before the start of the proceedings.

The special court is holding the case proceedings inside Rawalpinid’s Adiala Jail where both Imran and Qureshi are detained. The PTI leaders are accused of misusing a classified diplomatic telegram during the last weeks of their party’s rule in March 2022.

At the last two hearings—on Thursday and Friday—the lawyers for the PTI leaders had not shown up—much to the ire of the judge and the prosecution. The court on Friday stated that as no senior lawyer was appearing on behalf of the accused, it had no option but to appoint public counsels for the accused.

Later, the court sent an email request to the Islamabad Attorney General's office (AG) asking for a list of lawyers. The court received a response from the AG's office via letter, and on Saturday, it appointed Advocate Malik Abdul Rahman to represent Imran and Advocate Hazrat Younus to represent Qureshi.

During the hearing, Imran Khan expressed his disappointment at the court’s decision and asked the judge how they could be represented by lawyers whom they did not trust.

“Judge Sahib, what kind of joke is this? I have been requesting for three months now to allow me to meet with my lawyers before the hearing. Despite repeated requests, we are not allowed to consult our lawyers; so how will the case proceed?"

The judge stated that he had provided utmost relief to the accused and treated them fairly.

“Whether it is about providing an exercise bike or meeting with lawyers, I have accepted your requests. There are 75 requests on my record related to meetings,” he said. Imran Khan, however, stated that despite his orders, the jail authorities had not allowed his counsels to meet him.

Read Told Imran no precedent to declassify cypher: ex-FO secy

Qureshi, while displaying his anger, threw the case file handed to him by the government lawyer.

He also described the court proceedings as a joke. “What sort of a case is this in which the government is both the defense and the prosecution? We don’t even have the right to fight our case through our own lawyers.”

Imran Khan requested the court that the proceedings of the case should be conducted in Urdu.

“We cannot understand the English spoken by the lawyers appointed by the government. What is happening is contrary to the requirements of a transparent trial. Such a trial has never happened in Pakistan's history,” he said.

The judge noted that the counsels for Imran and Qureshi had not appeared in the court for the past three days. “It would have been easier for me to waive the right to defense, but I still chose to uphold the principle of state defense. I am exhausted from repeatedly ordering, but your lawyers do not come.”

On Saturday, Qureshi’s counsel, Usman Gul, appeared in court. The judge asked him to cross-examine the witnesses also on behalf of Imran Khan.

The PTI leaders, however, sought permission to telephone Imran’s lead counsel Sikandar Zulqarnain. After talking with his counsel, Imran Khan told the judge that his lawyer, who was having a dental surgery, could come to the court if the matter was adjourned for six hours.

The court, however, refused to adjourn the proceedings and ordered the journalists and accused family members to leave the courtroom before the initiation of the cross-examination process. The court will resume hearing of the case on Monday.


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