ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has ruled that former prime minister Imran Khan’s bail plea would be heard in an open court, his lawyer confirmed on Wednesday, adding that the court said “sensitive information” related to the case would be heard during an in-camera session.
Khan is accused of making public the contents of a confidential diplomatic cable sent by Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States last year. The case is popularly referred to as the “cipher case” in which Khan is accused of leaking the contents of the cable for his political advantage, according to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). Khan alleges the cable proves the United States had pressed Pakistan’s military to orchestrate the fall of his government because he had visited Russia shortly before it invaded Ukraine in February 2022. Both Washington and the Pakistani military have rejected his accusations.
After the IHC said last week that Khan’s bail plea hearing would be heard in an open court, the FIA requested the court on Sunday to conduct in-camera proceedings of the petition. The FIA argued that if the case would be heard by an open court, it could pose the “risk of deteriorating relations with other countries,” according to local media reports. After hearing arguments from both parties to the case, the high court reserved its verdict on the FIA’s request.
“Islamabad High Court has given the verdict to hold Mr. Imran Khan’s bail plea hearing in an open court,” Panjutha wrote on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter. “It has also said that any information which is pointed out by the lawyers as sensitive would be heard during an in-camera session.”
Panjutha criticized the verdict, saying that it would be a cause for “shame” for the country.
Khan has been in jail since Aug. 5 after a trial court in Islamabad found him guilty of “corrupt practices” in a case involving the unlawful sale of state gifts during his tenure as prime minister from 2018 to 2022. However, he served his sentence at a high-security prison in Attock instead of Rawalpindi jail. On Aug. 29, the IHC dismissed Khan’s conviction in the sale of unlawful state gifts case but he continued to remain in prison for the cipher case.
Last Tuesday, the former prime minister was shifted from the Attock prison to Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail on the IHC’s orders.
Khan, ousted via a parliamentary vote in April 2022, has accused Pakistan’s powerful military and his political rivals of colluding to keep him in jail so that he is unable to contest the upcoming elections. The former prime minister has repeatedly cited the PTI’s recent successes in by-elections held in various parts of the country as evidence of his growing popularity among the masses.
Pakistan is racked with political instability as the South Asian country faces an economic meltdown that has seen its reserves dwindle to dangerous levels and its currency weaken significantly against the US dollar. Political analysts have urged the caretaker government to hold free, fair and transparent elections to pull Pakistan out of its current crises.