RAWALPINDI: Ex-prime minister and former Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan Saturday claimed that "powerful people" involved in the cipher case are being given "protection".
Speaking during the cipher case hearing at Adiala Jail, Khan said he had ordered a probe into the cipher controversy during his premiership.
Taking a a jibe at one of his staunch political opponents Nawaz Sharif, the former premier stressed that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo was "brought back" to the country while he and his party leaders have been thrown behind bars "like goats."
A special court, established under the Official Secrets Act 2023, held an open court hearing at Adiala jail, where Khan and the party's Vice-Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi are incarcerated in the cipher case.
Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain has been conducting the cipher trial since the registration of the case against the PTI leaders under the Official Secrets Act.
Khan and Qureshi were indicted on the charges of misusing a classified document by the special court on October 23.
The federal cabinet on Thursday 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 decision was taken in light of special court judge Zulqarnain's order to hold the trial in jail due to "serious security risks" brought to light by the Adiala jail's superintendent.
The court also stated that the proceedings can be attended by anyone who wishes to do so including the journalists. Khan's wife Bushra Bibi, Qureshi's daughter Mehr Bano and son Zain Qureshi were also present in the court.
However, local and international journalists, who were present outside the jail to cover the open court hearing, could not be allowed inside today.
Khan and Qureshi's attendance was marked after which the proceedings were adjourned till December 4 (Monday).
During the hearing, Qureshi asked if their trial was being conducted under the Official Secret Act 1923 or 2023, adding that he never had any security concerns and had been travelling alone in his car.
He said that the jail administration violated the orders to produce him and Khan before the court and failed to produce their records.
"We are being tried in a bogus case. The president is also against the Official Secrets Act amendment law," he stressed. Qureshi also requested that the president be summoned and he will tell whether he accepted this law or not.
The court told Qureshi that media representatives were at the jail for the hearing.
"You were not produced in court due to security concerns," said the court, adding that Qureshi and Khan's trial cannot be held separately.
The court told Qureshi that his trial will be held under Sections 9 and 5 of the Official Secrets Act, adding that the proceedings will be held on merit.
Khan's lawyer Intazar Hussain Panjutha, speaking to the media persons outside Adiala jail, said that today's hearing was not in accordance with the open trial.
"The media representatives present in the jail said that they do not represent all the media. Today's hearing violated the high court's orders as Imran Khan's lawyers did not have internal access," said Panjutha.
He claimed that specific people were brought inside the jail in the name of the public, adding that the hearing was wrapped up when the media persons were allowed inside.
Meanwhile, Qureshi's son Zain said that the security concerns were just an excuse to not produce his father before the court.
"All local and international media representatives were present but they were not allowed inside the jail," said Zain, adding that all the facts related to the cipher case should come before the public.
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.
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