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Friday June 14, 2024

Cipher case: Imran Khan moves IHC against rejection of bail plea by special court

PTI chief's post-arrest bail plea was earlier rejected by special court hearing cipher case under Official Secrets Act

By Awais Yousufzai
September 16, 2023
PTI Chairman Imran Khan addressing a public gathering in this undated picture alongside Shah Mahmood Qureshi. — AFP/File
PTI Chairman Imran Khan addressing a public gathering in this undated picture alongside Shah Mahmood Qureshi. — AFP/File

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan Saturday filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) challenging the special court's decision rejecting his bail plea in the cipher case.

The plea by the former prime minister — who was ousted from office following a no-confidence motion — is likely to be fixed for hearing on Monday, September 18 by the IHC.

A special court, constituted under the Official Secrets Act, had rejected the post-arrest bail applications of Khan and his party's vice chairman in the cipher case on Thursday.

The court, on Wednesday, had extended Imran and Qureshi's judicial remand till September 26.

Last month, the FIA booked them under the Official Secrets Act for allegedly misplacing and misusing the classified document for vested political interests.

Subsequently, both leaders were arrested in connection with the investigation into the case and a special court was established to try the accused.

However, the special court approved PTI leader Asad Umar’s bail in the case related to US cipher after a prosecutor told the judge that his arrest was not required at this stage.

What is the cipher gate?

The controversy first emerged on March 27, 2022, when Khan — just days before his ouster in April 2022 — brandished a letter, claiming that it was a cipher from a foreign nation, which mentioned that his government should be removed from power.

He did not reveal the contents of the letter nor mention the name of the nation that had sent it. But a few days later, he named the United States and said 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 Asad 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 country for its "blatant interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan".

Later, after his removal, then-prime minister Shehbaz Sharif convened another meeting of the NSC, which came to the conclusion that it had found no evidence of a foreign conspiracy in the cipher.

The cipher case against the former premier became serious after his principal secretary Azam Khan stated before a magistrate as well as the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) that the former PM had used the US cipher for his "political gains" and to avert a vote of no-confidence against him.

The former bureaucrat, in his confession, said when he provided the ex-premier with the cipher, he was "euphoric" and termed the language a "US blunder". The former prime minister, according to Azam, then said that the cable could be used for "creating a narrative against establishment and opposition".

Azam said the US cipher was used in political gatherings by the PTI chairman, despite his advice to him to avoid such acts. He mentioned that the former prime minister also told him that the cipher could be used to divert the public's attention towards "foreign involvement" in the opposition's no-confidence motion.