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Pakistan: Imran Khan, Shah Mahmood Qureshi's indictment in cipher case deferred to Oct 23

The case was heard at the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, where Imran Khan is currently imprisoned. The Islamabad High Court has reserved its verdict on the ex-PM's plea seeking to quash the cipher case against him.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Islamabad Published on: October 17, 2023 18:38 IST
Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan
Image Source : AP Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan

The indictment of former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and his deputy Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the cipher case has been deferred to October 23 on Tuesday after the special court established under the Official Secrets Act adjourned the case till next week.

The hearing of the case was held in Rawalpindi's Adiala Jail, where copies of the Federal Investigation Agency's chargesheet against the duo was handed to their lawyers. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders had refused to receive the copies during the last hearing on October 9, Geo News reported.

“On October 23, the charges will be framed and the indictment will be filed. After the indictment, the regular trial of the cipher case will begin,” said FIA's special prosecutor. Khan’s counsel, Sher Afzal Marwat said the hearing will be challenged again.

The court issued copies of the chargesheet on October 9 and shared them with the accused in the cipher case, scheduling a date of indictment on October 17. "The accused had refused to receive a copy of the challan at the previous hearing," said the FIA's special prosecutor.

IHC reserves verdict on Imran's plea

Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday reserved its ruling on petitions by Imran, the PTI chief, seeking post-arrest bail and quashing of the cipher case. He was booked under the Official Secrets Act on August 18.

The IHC had rejected the PTI chief's appeal against a jail trial in the cipher case, saying that the hearing was in his favour "in view of his security". "The jail trial is in favour of the PTI chairman in view of his security," the court said while highlighting that he had repeatedly expressed his fears about his safety. 

Meanwhile, Qureshi, the PTI vice-chairman, also filed a petition in the IHC challenging his jail trial and requesting the IHC for an annulment of the trial court's October 9 order where it said that Imran and he would be indicted in the cipher case. The date for the indictment was set after the copies of the challan, submitted to the court by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), were provided to the counsels of the accused.

"My jail trial continues without notification. The court should stop the jail trial and direct an open trial," Qureshi said in his petition. Imran's lawyer termed the cipher case as 'malicious' and accused the FIA of not providing any evidence.

Imran Khan is currently imprisoned in Adiala Jail on judicial remand in the cipher. He was convicted and sentenced to three years of imprisonment in the Toshakhana corruption case, but his sentence was suspended on September 29.

The FIA submitted a chargesheet to the court declaring the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief and vice-president 'guilty' in the alleged disclosure of state secrets.

The FIA has requested the special court to start the trial and sentence them in accordance with the law. Additionally, PTI's former general secretary Asad Umar's name has not been added to the list of accused. Imran's former principal secretary Azam Khan has been named as a "strong witness" in the case.

The FIA also attached the transcript of the PTI chief and Qureshi's speech on March 27 when Imran brandished a letter in public, claiming it was a cipher from a foreign nation that wanted to oust his government from power. Imran was ousted by a no-confidence motion in 2022.

What is the cipher case?

Last year, Imran Khan alleged that the US orchestrated a plan to remove him from office and brandished a cipher at a public rally to back his claims. The US has time and again denied such allegations, terming them "categorically false".

According to Khan's then-principal secretary Azam Khan, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief was allegedly “euphoric” after seeing the cipher and decided to use it to build an “anti-establishment narrative” on the back of a "blunder" committed by the US. 

“The cipher copy was retained by Imran Khan and the next day (March 10) when he asked for it, Imran Khan replied that he has misplaced it,” the confession statement said, adding that the PTI chief did not return the original cipher despite repeated requests.

On September 30, 2022, the federal cabinet of Pakistan under Shehbaz Sharif took notice of the matter and constituted a committee to probe the contents of the audio leaks. The FIA summoned Khan, Umar and other leaders of the party, but the PTI chief secured a stay order against such summons.

ALSO READ | Pakistan: Imran Khan's appeal against jail trial in cipher case rejected by IHC ahead of indictment

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