Sunday April 21, 2024

PTI demands 'judicial inquiry' into ciphergate case afresh

PTI leaders for trial of former PM Imran Khan's military secretary in cipher case

By Web Desk
March 04, 2024
PTI’s newly elected chairman Barrister Gohar Ali Khan (left) and Omar Ayub Khan. —AFP/Radio Pakistan/File
PTI’s newly elected chairman Barrister Gohar Ali Khan (left) and Omar Ayub Khan. —AFP/Radio Pakistan/File 

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Secretary General Omar Ayub Khan Monday demanded a judicial inquiry into ciphergate case.

In January, former prime minister Imran Khan and his party’s senior leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi were sentenced to 10 years, each, in the cipher case.

Talking to journalists outside the Parliament House, PTI leader Ayub called for the trial of the ex-PM’s military secretary in the diplomatic cable case.

Flanked by PTI’s newly-elected Chairman Barrister Gohar Ali Khan, he said that keeping the cipher documents safe was the responsibility of the then-prime minister’s military secretary.

“If the case is to proceed, it should be proceeded against these persons [military secretary].”

Commenting on the PPP chairman’s address in the lower house of parliament, Ayub said Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari used unparliamentary words today. “Bilawal Bhutto does not know the cipher’s mechanism.”

For his part, Barrister Gohar said that the party wanted to move forward, despite problems. Slamming the eight-party ruling alliance, the PTI leader said that they themselves were “crises” and added that they could not steer the country out of the crises.

Earlier today, responding to the remarks made by the PPP chairman regarding the cipher case, wherein the ex-prime minister was discussed, Asad Qaiser called for the constitution of a judicial commission to investigate the controversy.

Imran was sentenced on the cases that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had termed as "lies", Qasier said while taking a jibe at the Shehbaz Sharif-led party.

Lamenting the alleged crackdown on party leadership and workers, Qaiser, the former NA speaker, stressed that the PTI founder didn't flee — in the wake of the crackdown and legal woes — and will not compromise on his principles.

"Neither our leader nor we would compromise," he added while calling for the party leadership to be released along with the withdrawal of cases filed against top leadership, including Khan's wife, Bushra Bibi.

In response to Bilawal's remarks calling for stakeholders to sit together, Qaiser questioned whether the PPP chief was unaware of the worst election rigging in the country's history in the February 8 polls.

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.

In August 2023, a foreign news outlet published a story claiming that it had gotten its hands on the text of the diplomatic cipher, backing Khan’s claims that the US wanted him removed as the premier.

In the same month, the Federal Investigation Agency registered a first information report (FIR) against Imran and his aide Qureshi under the Official Secrets Act.

Fast forward to October 2023, Special Court Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain indicted both Imran and Qureshi. In the charge sheet, the prosecution mentioned that Imran “illegally retained and wrongly communicated” the cipher.

Imran secured a brief relief in November when the Islamabad High Court ordered that the proceedings in the special court were illegal and they should start afresh.

Complying with the orders, Judge Zulqarnain began the trial afresh on December 13. The court then began the proceedings, which saw several witnesses testify.

Then on January 30, the special court — established under the Official Secrets Act — handed former premier Khan and ex-foreign minister 10 years in jail in the cipher case.