ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Imran Khan has filed a petition through his lawyers at the Islamabad High Court, (IHC) challenging a special court’s decision to indict him in a case in which he is accused of leaking the contents of a secret document, his lawyer announced on Wednesday.
A special court set up to try cases under the Official Secrets Act started hearing the case in August 2021. On Monday, the court indicted Khan and his deputy, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, for leaking the contents of an alleged diplomatic correspondence between Washington and Islamabad last year that Khan says is proof his ouster in a parliamentary vote in April 2022 was part of a US conspiracy to remove him.
Khan says the US got involved in the plot to oust him after his visit to Moscow and less than a month before his removal, he waved a letter to a crowd during a public rally, claiming it was a cipher from a foreign nation calling for the end of his government. He later revealed that country to be the US and said the secret diplomatic letter spoke of dire consequences if he continued to get closer to Russia. Khan accused his political rivals and Pakistan’s former army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa of colluding with Washington to remove him. All deny the allegations.
“The move to indict Khan in the cipher case has been challenged,” the former premier’s lawyer, Neem Haider Panjutha, wrote on social media platform X. He added that Khan has demanded that the petition’s decision be issued soon and not until the trial against him is completed.
The petition states that legally, charges can be framed against an individual seven days after copies of the charge sheet against him/her have been distributed, the lawyer said. He said the special court indicted Khan before the seven days had passed.
“The trial court framed charges in haste and wants to complete the trial in haste,” he wrote.
Panjutha said the higher courts had not issued any specific directions to hear the cipher case against Khan on a daily basis or to wrap up its proceedings quickly. However, he said holding the trial in haste would affect the constitutional rights of his client.
Khan’s lawyers say the case carries a maximum jail term of 14 years and in the most extreme circumstances, the death penalty.
The former prime minister has been in jail since August 5 after he was convicted in a separate case involving the sale of state gifts. He was initially kept at the high-security Attock prison but was later moved to Adiala jail. He has also been remanded in jail custody in the cipher case.
Khan says that the slew of cases registered against him after his ouster from office since April 2022 are all based on “politically motivated” charges.
The former prime minister also alleges that his aides are being forced out of the PTI under duress from the army in a maneuver to dismantle his party before elections scheduled early next year. The army denies this.
Khan and the PTI have also repeatedly raised concern that the party will be denied a “level-playing field” in the next general elections.