Court rejects Imran, Qureshi’s post-arrest bail pleas in cipher case

Special court approves PTI leader Asad Umar’s bail n Prosecutor tells court Umar’s arrest was not required at this stage

ISLAMABAD  -  A special court on Thursday rejected bail applications of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and the party’s Vice Chairman Shah Mah­mood Qureshi in the ci­pher case.

Special court Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqar­nain heard the bail ap­plications and reserved the verdict after PTI’s counsels completed their arguments. 

Later, the judge an­nounced the reserved verdict, rejecting the post-arrest bail pleas of the PTI leaders. 

Earlier on Thursday, the same court estab­lished under the Official Secrets Act approved PTI leader Asad Umar’s bail in the case related to US cipher after a prose­cutor told the judge that his arrest was not re­quired at this stage.

Judge Zulqarnain ap­proved the PTI leader’s bail against the surety bond of Rs50,000 and also noted that Umar ex­pressed willingness to join the cipher probe but the prosecution did not investigate him in the case. “If Asad Umar’s ar­rest is required, the FIA [Federal Investigation Agency] will proceed according to law,” the judge ordered.

He also directed the FIA to inform the PTI leader in advance before arresting him in the case.

Last month, the FIA booked PTI chief Khan and the party’s vice chairman Qureshi under the Official Secrets Act for allegedly misplacing and misusing classified document for vested po­litical interests.

“Consequent upon the conclusion of the enquiry No. 111/2023 dated 05.10.2022, reg­istered in the CTW, FIA Islamabad, it transpired that former prime min­ister namely Imran Ah­mad Khan Niazi, former foreign minister namely Shah Mahmood Qureshi and their other associates are involved in communications of information contained in the secret classified document (Cipher Telegram re­ceived from Parep. Washington dated 7th March, 2022 to Secre­tary Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to the unauthorised person (i.e. public at large) by twisting the facts to achieve their ulterior motives and personal gains in a manner prejudicial to the inter­ests of state security,” read first information report (FIR) regis­tered against the PTI leaders.

Subsequently, both leaders were arrested in connection with the investigation into the case and a special court was es­tablished under the Official Se­crets Act to try the accused.

A day earlier, the special court had extended Imran and Qureshi’s judicial remand till September 26 in the cipher case. The controversy first emerged on March 27, 2022, when Khan — just days before his ouster in April 2022 — brandished a let­ter, claiming that it was a cipher from a foreign nation, which mentioned that his government should be removed from power.

He did not reveal the con­tents of the letter nor mention the name of the nation that had sent it. But a few days later, he named the United States and said that Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Affairs Donald Lu had sought his removal. The cipher was about former Pakistan ambas­sador to the US Asad Majeed’s meeting with Lu. The former prime minister, claiming that he was reading contents from the cipher, said that “all will be for­given for Pakistan if Imran Khan is removed from power”.

Then on March 31, the Nation­al Security Committee (NSC) took up the matter and decid­ed to issue a “strong demarche” to the country for its “blatant interference in the internal af­fairs of Pakistan”. Later, after his removal, then-prime minis­ter Shehbaz Sharif convened an­other meeting of the NSC, which came to the conclusion that it had found no evidence of a for­eign conspiracy in the cipher.

The cipher case against the for­mer premier became serious af­ter his principal secretary Azam Khan stated before a magistrate as well as the Federal Investiga­tion Agency (FIA) that the for­mer PM had used the US cipher for his “political gains” and to avert a vote of no-confidence against him. The former bureau­crat, in his confession, said when he provided the ex-premier with the cipher, he was “euphoric” and termed the language a “US blunder”. The former prime min­ister, according to Azam, then said that the cable could be used for “creating a narrative against establishment and opposition”.

Azam said the US cipher was used in political gatherings by the PTI chairman, despite his ad­vice to him to avoid such acts. He mentioned that the former prime minister also told him that the ci­pher could be used to divert the public’s attention towards “for­eign involvement” in the opposi­tion’s no-confidence motion.

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