Thursday April 18, 2024

Cipher copy not returned to ministry till my retirement, ex-foreign secy tells court

Sohail Mahmood says he retired in Sept 2022, and until then, copy of the cipher had not been returned to Ministry of Foreign Affairs

By Khalid Iqbal
January 23, 2024
Former foreign secretary Sohail Mahmood speaks during a seminar in Islamabad on July 12, 2023. — ISSI
Former foreign secretary Sohail Mahmood speaks during a seminar in Islamabad on July 12, 2023. — ISSI

ISLAMABAD. Former foreign secretary Sohail Mahmood, while recording his statement in the cipher case involving former prime minister Imran Khan and ex-foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi at Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi, stated on Monday that the cipher copy was not returned to the foreign ministry until his retirement.

The statements of four witnesses including former foreign secretary Sohail Mahmood, former interior secretary Yousuf Naseem Khokhar and Islamabad Assistant Commissioner Irshad Awaid Bhatti, were recorded before Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain of the Special Official Secrets Act court in the cipher case.

Sohail Mahmood said he retired in Sept 2022, and until then, the copy of the cipher had not been returned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Meanwhile, Shah Mehmood Qureshi objected to intervention of Prosecutor Rizwan Abbasi, saying the written statement was in front of him. “Former foreign secretary is an honest man. I respect him,” Shah Mehmood told the prosecutor. “I know what you are trying to do; if you want to do so, take a decision in writing.

“Come and tell. The prosecution has no right to interfere during the statement of a witness. The prosecutor should avoid giving the witness a mouthful.” Prosecutor Rizwan Abbasi said, “Have I asked any misleading question?”

Shah Mehmood said if the prosecutor would speak, then he would also speak. “I will not stay silent,” he added. During the conversation of Qureshi, PTI founding chairman Imran Khan also reached the rostrum and said that an attempt was being made to save Donald Lu [a US diplomat, who allegedly asked for toppling of Imran Khan’s government].

Qureshi said if the former prime minister and former foreign minister were trusting the foreign secretary, why the prosecution was interfering. On Qureshi’s objection, the court stopped Prosecutor Rizwan from speaking during the witness statement.

The court later adjourned the hearing of the case till Tuesday (today). Meanwhile, PTI founder and former premier Imran Khan and the Adiala Jail superintendent Monday engaged in a tiff in the court room at the end of hearing in the cipher case.

Jail Superintendent Asad Warraich stopped Imran from talking to the media, saying the media came there to cover the hearing and not to touch political issues. “We have the right; you can’t stop. I refuse to listen to you and will talk to the media,” Imran answered.

The superintendent and DIG jails drove the media out of the court room. Leaving the court room, Imran said he was giving a message to all the party workers to come out on the streets next Sunday.

Talking informally to the media in the courtroom, Imran said cases against the PMLN Quaid Nawaz Sharif in the Supreme Court and High Courts had been closed and the Election Commission and administration were helping him.

“Nawaz Sharif’s son sold a house worth 18 billion rupees. Where did all this money come from? They are certified money launderers. Democracy means freedom. All our struggle is for the supremacy of law but ‘they’ will never allow it,” he added.