ISLAMABAD: A special court set up to try cases under the Official Secrets Act will indict former Prime Minister Imran Khan and ex-foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Tuesday, October 17, local media widely reported on Monday.
A case, which has popularly come to be called the cipher case, was registered against Khan and his top aide Qureshi in July under the Official Secrets Act of 1923 and is related to alleged diplomatic correspondence between Washington and Islamabad, that Khan has said proved a US conspiracy to topple his government. Washington has denied being involved in any such plan.
According to a copy of the First Information Report (FIR), or police complaint, seen by Arab News, Khan and Qureshi, who was the ex-PM’s foreign minister, are both accused of divulging the contents of a classified document to unauthorized individuals and distorting facts “with ulterior motives and personal gains, thereby jeopardizing state security interest.”
During the hearing of the case on Monday in which Khan and Qureshi were both present, the special court announced that they would be indicted in the cipher case on October 17.
“The date for the indictment was set after the copies of the challan [charge sheet], submitted to the court by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), were provided to the counsels of the accused,” Geo News reported.
The date of the indictment was widely reported by other Pakistani media.
Khan’s lawyer Salman Safdar told media after the hearing that Khan protested before the judge about his treatment at Rawalpinid’s Adiala jail, where he is serving a three-year sentence in a separate corruption case in which he was sentenced in August. The conviction has effectively put Khan out of the next elections, likely in January.
“The chairman protested that he was given a room where it is difficult to live, it is also difficult to move or walk in the cell,” Safdar said, adding that Khan had high blood pressure at Monday’s hearing.
“The PTI chief strongly protested during the hearing in the court.”
He called for the cipher case trial to be conducted in an open court rather than in jail.
In its charge sheet to the special court, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has said Khan and Qureshi were guilty of leaking state secrets.
The decision to prosecute Khan for exposing official secrets was taken by the outgoing government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif after the ex-PM’s former principal secretary Azam Khan recorded a court statement saying a US diplomatic encrypted letter was manipulated by Khan in March 2022 to serve his political goals.
The 70-year-old former cricket hero lost power in a vote of no confidence in April 2022, in which he has said Washington got involved after his visit to Moscow. Khan waved a piece of paper at public gatherings saying he was holding a copy of a secret diplomatic letter, which spoke of dire consequences if he continued to get closer to Russia.
Khan had traveled to Moscow on the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and says the US and Pakistan’s own army were opposed to him for pursuing an independent foreign policy. Both deny the charge.