RAWALPINDI: A special court, established to conduct the cipher case, will indict former prime minister Imran Khan and ex-foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on December 12, Geo News reported Monday.
The indictment date was set by Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain after both the suspects were provided with the case record during the hearing held in the Adiala jail.
In today’s hearing, PTI lawyers urged the court not to hand over the record, while the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) special prosecutor asked the court to go ahead.
A special court established under the Official Secrets Act 2023 held an open court hearing in Adiala jail where Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi are incarcerated.
The court is conducting the trial afresh after the Islamabad High Court nullified the jail trial on November 21. Both of them were indicted on October 23 but the indictment stood cancelled after the IHC order.
Today was the second open court hearing after the judge decided to hold the trial in jail due to "serious security risks" brought to light by the prison’s superintendent.
The federal cabinet last week had also approved the summary to hold the jail trial of Khan and Qureshi in the cipher case after it was moved by the Ministry of Law and Justice.
The court had also stated that the proceedings can be attended by anyone who wishes to do so including the journalists.
Despite those orders, only six journalists were allowed to attend the hearing today by the jail authorities.
In his conversation with the journalists, the former PTI chairman vowed that he would name former army chief General (retd) Qamar Javed Bajwa and US embassy officials as witnesses in his defence in the case.
“Will include General Bajwa and US embassy officials as witnesses [in the case]. General Bajwa did everything on Donald Lu’s directives,” claimed Khan.
Speaking to the media person, the former prime minister predicted that his party would win the February 8 polls, adding that he was arrested under a plan.
Khan said he was thankful to those PTI leaders jumping the ship.
He also rejected reports that he held negotiations in jail. In November, PTI President Parvez Elahi claimed that officials of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund routinely visit Imran Khan at Adiala.
He also shared that was not facing any difficulties in jail.
Khan also spoke about the allegations put forward against him by Khawar Maneka — the former husband of his wife Bushra Bibi. He stated that he saw his wife’s face for the first time after their nikkah.
The former prime minister also claimed that Bushra’s sons were being pressurised to give a statement against their mother.
Meanwhile, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the co-accused in the cipher case, said that the PTI was in his heart and no one could take it out of there.
“I do not need any post in PTI anymore,” said Qureshi while talking to journalists.
The controversy emerged on March 27, 2022, when Khan — less than a month before his ouster in April 2022 — while addressing a public rally waved a letter before the crowd, claiming that it was a cipher from a foreign nation that had conspired with his political rivals to have PTI government overthrown.
He did not reveal the contents of the letter nor did he mention the name of the nation it came from. But a few days later, he accused the United States of conspiring against him and alleged that Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Affairs Donald Lu had sought his removal.
The cipher was about former Pakistan ambassador to the US Majeed's meeting with Lu.
The former prime minister, claiming that he was reading contents from the cipher, said that "all will be forgiven for Pakistan if Imran Khan is removed from power".
Then on March 31, the National Security Committee (NSC) took up the matter and decided to issue a "strong demarche" to the US for its "blatant interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan".
Later, after his removal, then-prime minister Shehbaz Sharif convened a meeting of the NSC, which came to the conclusion that it had found no evidence of a foreign conspiracy in the cable.
In the two audio leaks that took the internet by storm and shocked the public after these events, the former prime minister, then-federal minister Asad Umar, and then-principle secretary Azam Khan could allegedly be heard discussing the US cipher and how to use it to their advantage.
On September 30, the federal cabinet took notice of the matter and constituted a committee to probe the contents of the audio leaks.
In October, the cabinet gave the green signal to initiate action against the former prime minister and handed over the case to the FIA.
Earlier this year on August 15, the FIA booked both the PTI leaders in the case.
The first information report (FIR) was registered on the complaint of Ministry of Interior Secretary Yousaf Naseem Khokhar.
It invoked Sections 5 (wrongful communication of information) and 9 (attempt to commit or abet the commission of an offence under this Secrets Act) of the Official Secrets Act read with Section 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
According to the FIR, on March 7, 2022, the then-foreign secretary received a cipher dispatched from Washington.
It added that a conclusion of a case registered with the FIA’s counter-terrorism department on Oct 5, 2022, transpired that Imran Khan, Shah Mahmood Qureshi and their other associates “are involved in the communication of information contained in [the] secret classified document … to unauthorised persons (ie public at large)”.