PTI’s Imran, Qureshi charged with misusing secret cipher

FIA submits challan before Special Court n Former principal secretary Azam Khan, ex-foreign secretaries Asad Majeed, Sohail Mehmood among 28 witnesses mentioned in charge sheet n FIA didn’t include Asad Umar’s name in list of accused persons.

ISLAMABAD   -  In a significant development, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) declared guilty the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the challan (final investigation report) submitted before the special court hearing the cipher case under the Official Secrets Act.

The FIA charged PTI Chairman Imran Khan and vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi as being responsible for the illegal retention and the subsequent misplacement of the secret cipher containing the diplomatic cable received from the Pakistani embassy in Washington in March 2022.

The FIA on Saturday submitted the charge sheet before the special court reviewing the matter under the Official Secrets Act. The charge sheet stated that Imran violated the Official Secrets Act by illegally retaining the Prime Minister House copy of the cipher and misusing the official document.

PTI, the party of former PM Imran Khan rejected the FIA’s challan in the cipher case and reiterated its demand of forming the judicial commission to re-investigate allegations against both the politicians.

The imprisoned cricketer- turned politician Khan and the vice chairman of his party Qureshi are facing allegations of misusing a classified diplomatic cable that was written by then Pakistan’s ambassador to US Asad Majeed Khan to the Foreign Office about his conversation with US diplomat Donald Lu.

Khan had alleged that he was ousted from office in April last year under a “US conspiracy”. He also said that the cipher contained the threat from the US to remove him from power.

In August this year, FIA registered a first information report (FIR) against Khan and Qureshi under sections 5 and 9 of Official Secrets Act and Section 34 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) on charges of wrongful use and twisting the official secret information, The charges also contained illegal retention of cipher that reportedly went missing into the custody of Khan – an allegation that he has denied.

The FIR said that Khan, Qureshi and their other associates were involved in communication of information contained in secret classified document (cipher telegram) to the unauthorised persons and public at large by “twisting facts to achieve their ulterior motives and personal gains in a manner prejudicial to the interests of state security.” 

The final investigation report points out that Imran Khan kept the cipher in his possession and allegedly misused the classified state information. Furthermore, the challan says that Qureshi delivered a speech at the PTI’s public rally on March 27, 2022 at Islamabad’s Parade Ground in which then PM Khan for the first time revealed the details of the alleged conspiracy of his ouster. 

At the rally, the ex-premier had taken out a piece of paper from his pocket, labelled it as a diplomatic cipher and claimed it was evidence of an international conspiracy to topple his government.

The FIA has not included former finance minister and PTI leader Asad Umar among the guilty and thus has not included him in the list of accused. The transcript of the speeches given by Imran and Qureshi on March 27 was also attached to the challan. 

FIA has included the name of former principal secretary Azam Khan in the list of witnesses and his statements given under Sections 161 and 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure have been affixed with the challan report. 

The agency has also submitted a list of 28 witnesses to the court, with statements of 27 of them under 161 attached to the challan.

Among the witnesses listed in the challan are former foreign secretaries Asad Majeed and Sohail Mehmood. The FIA has included all those in the witness list who were part of the process of cipher reaching the Foreign Office as well as Prime Minister’s Office. 

On the other hand, a PTI spokesperson in a statement vehemently rejected the FIA’s challan and reiterated the party’s stance seeking formation of an empowered high level judicial commission to probe the allegations. The spokesperson said that the challan was meaningless and worthless like the fake and bogus cipher case itself. 

“It is the fact that the cipher is still present in the Foreign Office in its original state, which is proving the allegations leveled against the former prime minister are baseless,” he said. 

The PTI spokesperson stated that the federal cabinet declassified the paraphrased version of the cipher which the FO provided after which the Official Secrets Act could not be applied. The case died by its own death, as the original cipher is coded and only the foreign ministry has access to it, he added 

He recalled that PTI Chairman Imran Khan repeatedly demanded an independent and impartial investigation of the cipher, for which letters were also sent to the Chief Justice and the President of the country, but no progress had been made till date. 

The spokesperson went on to say that new traditions of injustice have been established from the holding secret trial in the jail to the unjustified postponement of the court proceedings of the cipher case. He added that any decision given as a result of the illegal proceedings of a baseless case would have neither any legal standing nor the nation accept it.

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