Cipher trial against Imran Khan, Qureshi may start within a fortnight

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PTI Chairman Imran Khan and vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi. — AFP/File
PTI Chairman Imran Khan and vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The trial of PTI Chairman Imran Khan and his deputy Shah Mehmood Qureshi in the cipher case under the Official Secrets Act is expected to start within a fortnight.

Official sources said the FIA is trying to complete the challan by next week for the initiation of trial in the special court formed recently. The FIA has already arrested both Khan and Qureshi in the case.

In case Imran Khan gets relief in the Toshakhana case and his bail is accepted and sentence suspended, he will continue to be behind bars for having already been arrested in the cipher case.

The sources clarified that the special court was formed a few months back and before the recent amendment to the Official Secrets Act. The special court, it was explained, was there even before the registration of FIR under the Official Secrets Act against Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi by the FIA.

According to media reports, the ATC-I Judge Abul Hasnat Zulqarnain hears all cases registered anywhere in the country under the Official Secrets Act, 1923. All these trials will be held in-camera. Although, many believe that the special court has been constituted on the basis of latest amendments made to the Official Secrets Act, yet the Ministry of Law and Justice had appointed Judge Zulqarnain as the ATC-1 Judge on June 27.

In view of the ministry’s notification, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on July 3 had directed the judge to join his new assignment till December 8, 2025. According to the IHC notification, Judge Zulqarnain will also try the cases reported under the Official Secrets Act, 1923 “until further orders”.

While Shah Mehmood Qureshi was arrested last Saturday and was later remanded by the special court in the custody of FIA for four days till August 25, Imran Khan was arrested in the same case during his imprisonment in Attock jail in the Toshakhana case. The JIT, formed to probe the cipher case, interrogated Imran Khan in the Attock Jail. Imran Khan, the sources said, confirmed to the JIT that he had lost the cipher copy.

The JIT interrogation pertains to the diplomatic cipher which reportedly went missing from Imran’s custody and which he had for long presented as evidence of a “foreign conspiracy” to remove him as the prime minister.

On August 5, Imran was arrested and sent to the Attock jail after being declared guilty in the Toshakhana case.

On March 27, 2022, ahead of vote of no-confidence that resulted in his ouster, former premier Imran had pulled out a piece of paper – allegedly the cipher – from his pocket and waved it in a public gathering in Islamabad, claiming it was the evidence of an “international conspiracy” being hatched to topple his government.

Originally published in The News

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