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Thursday May 30, 2024

Cipher case: Shah Mahmood Qureshi moves SC for bail

Petition states IHC did not properly assess the facts in the matter

By Maryam Nawaz
November 20, 2023
Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Vice Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and Pakistan´s former Foreign Affairs Minister is seen outside a special court after he was granted a four-day physical remand in Islamabad on August 21, 2023. — AFP
Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Vice Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and Pakistan´s former Foreign Affairs Minister is seen outside a special court after he was granted a four-day physical remand in Islamabad on August 21, 2023. — AFP

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi Monday moved the Supreme Court to seek post-arrest bail in the cipher case, requesting it to annul the Islamabad High Court's decision of November 8.

The former federal minister's plea challenges the IHC's decision dismissing his post-arrest bail on the aforementioned date.

The petition, filed on behalf of the senior politician today, stated that the IHC did not properly assess the facts in the matter.

"A baseless and political case has been made against the petitioner," the plea read.

The petition also mentioned that the courts did not give due consideration to the core principles of bail as held by the superior courts.

It also mentioned that the court's order failed to give due consideration to the fact that the petitioner's role is distinguishable to that of the principle accused and that the only allegations against the petitioner as mentioned in the challan dated March 3 are that of a speech given in a jalsa.

It should be noted that PTI Chairman Imran Khan had also filed a plea in the SC, on November 3, seeking post-arrest bail in the cipher case.

In his 18-page bail plea, the PTI chief, through his counsel Barrister Salman Safdar, put 15 legal questions regarding the cipher case before the SC.

Among the questions, Khan wanted the apex court to consider whether the courts that rejected his bail plea took into consideration that the cipher case was “politically motivated”. He also questioned the role of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) jurisdiction in the case and its “malafide intentions and ulterior motives”.

“Whether Ministry of Interior correctly assumed the role of Complainant excluding Ministry of Foreign Affairs which actually handles ‘Cypher Telegram’ & Whether the Minister of Interior under whose direct supervision Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) operates was not a Political Opponent of the Petitioner?” asked Khan.

What is ciphergate?

The controversy first 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 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.

Once FIA was given the task to probe the matter, it summoned Khan, Umar, and other leaders of the party, but the PTI chief challenged the summons and secured a stay order from the court.

The Lahore High Court (LHC), in July this year, recalled the stay order against the call-up notice to Khan by the FIA.