A special court established under the Official Secrets Act has directed jail authorities to summon imprisoned former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his deputy Shah Mahmood Qureshi on October 4 in connection with the cipher case.
This comes after Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) submitted a chargesheet to the court declaring the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief and vice-president 'guilty' in alleged disclosure of state secrets.
Special judge Abul Hasnat Zulqarnain has issued notices to respondents, contending that the statements of the witnesses are sufficient to summon the accused to court. He directed the Adiala jail superintendent to summon the PTI leaders on Wednesday, Geo News reported.
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.
At least 28 witnesses have been named in the case. Imran Khan and Qureshi were booked last month for misplacing and misusing the classified document for their vested political interests. The ex-PM's judicial remand was extended till October 10 in the cipher case on Tuesday.
Imran's PTI rejected the chargesheet and called for the formation of a judicial commission to investigate the cipher case. The party's spokesperson said that the challan was “meaningless and bogus as cipher case”.
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.
Imran Khan's other worries
Meanwhile, in another setback for the former premier, a joint investigation team has informed an anti-terrorism court in Lahore that Imran and several top leaders of his party were directly involved in orchestrating the unprecedented anti-government violence on May 9.
According to Lahore police, Khan, 70, and over 900 other party leaders and activists named in the May 9 cases have been “declared guilty of serious offences”, the report said. In the chargesheets filed before the court, the prosecution alleged that the violent protests led by the suspects on May 9 were part of a planned conspiracy against the state.
Khan has denied masterminding or inciting the attacks stating that it was a well-planned conspiracy to oust its party from upcoming elections. He currently serving his sentence in the cipher case in Adiala jail since his imprisonment in August after his conviction in the Toshakhana case.