Imran was aware of cipher's sensitivity, FIA tells IHC

FIA prosecutor cites former PM's statements about cipher on YouTube channel

Fiaz Mehmood May 07, 2024
PTI founder Imran Khan. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE


Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) prosecutor Hamid Ali Shah has told the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that former prime minister Imran Khan was fully cognizant of the sensitivity surrounding the cipher, yet failed to secure it appropriately, leading to potential risks of exposure.

He said that Imran not only kept the copy of the cipher without authorisation but also failed to safeguard it. He stressed that the primary purpose of cipher security is to prevent its dissemination to unauthorised individuals.

Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb on Monday heard the appeals of PTI founder Imran Khan and former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in the cipher case.

"The cipher document is stamped as classified, and its copies are mandated to be destroyed after six months," the FIA prosecutor explained and added that even after declassification, stringent measures are in place for its disposal.

He recalled that after the decision taken during a National Security Committee (NSC) meeting on March 31 to issue a demarche to the United States, the cipher process was concluded, necessitating its return to the Foreign Office."All cipher copies, except the one held by the PTI founder, were returned and subsequently disposed of," he informed the court.

The chief justice queried whether the accused could present a defence without legal representation, questioning its impact on the accused's statement. In response, the prosecutor said that for statements given under Section 342 legal representation was not mandatory for the defence statement.

The chief justice then asked about the possibility of concurrent charges for deliberate and negligent loss of the cipher document. The FIA prosecutor explained that both charges would be pursued simultaneously, given the differing timelines of relevant actions.

In response to the bench’s question whether Imran Khan was aware of the sensitivity of the cipher and accountability, the FIA prosecutor referred to the former premier's public acknowledgement of the cipher's significance, citing statements made on various platforms where he underscored the ramifications of its potential leak.

In addressing concerns about the cipher's dissemination, Shah pointed out the stringent security protocols surrounding its handling and said that any breach could compromise national security.

Regarding the involvement of ex-principal secretary Azam Khan, Shah clarified that while Azam Khan himself did not receive the document, it was handled by his staff.
The prosecutor stated that Azam Khan confessed to having received a cipher copy, subsequently passing it to then-prime minister Imran Khan.

He contended that it was an established fact that the former premier possessed a copy of the cipher, a point reiterated on multiple platforms. The prosecutor referenced statements made by the PTI founder on his YouTube channel, highlighting the significance of the cypher and its potential ramifications if leaked.

Responding to the chief justice inquiry about the credibility of a YouTube conversation as testimony, the prosecutor reiterated that the PTI founder had acknowledged the cipher's importance and the risk posed by its exposure.

Furthermore, Islamabad advocate general petitioned for the submission of an FIR and records about the alleged abduction of witness Azam Khan, which was granted by the court.

The case is slated for further deliberation on May 8.


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