Pakistan court declares illegal jail trial of ex-PM Khan in state secrets case

Security officers escort Pakistani former Prime Minister Imran Khan as he appeared in Islamabad High Court, Islamabad, Pakistan, May 12, 2023. (AP/File)
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Updated 21 November 2023

Pakistan court declares illegal jail trial of ex-PM Khan in state secrets case

  • The government has accused Khan of leaking state secrets and using them for political gains
  • Khan’s lawyers had challenged government order, fearing unfair trial behind closed prison doors

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday annulled a government order approving a jail trial for former Prime Minister Imran Khan in a case that has famously come to be called the cipher case and in which he is charged with leaking state secrets.
The saga relates to an alleged diplomatic correspondence between Washington and Islamabad that Khan says was proof that his ouster as PM in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence in April 2022 was part of a US conspiracy to remove him. Washington has repeatedly denied Khan’s accusations. Khan had waved a letter to a crowd during a public rally last year, claiming it was a cipher from a foreign nation calling for the end of his government. Khan 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.
The government has since accused Khan of leaking state secrets and using them for political gains. A special court was formed on Aug 21 under the Official Secrets Act, 1923, to adjudicate the case through in-camera proceedings. On Aug. 29, before the first hearing in the case could be held, the law ministry announced the trial would be held in prison due to “security concerns.” All hearings of the case have since been heard in jail, with no members of the public or media allowed.
“The Islamabad High Court Tuesday nullified the notification for conducting former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s jail trial in the cipher case — issued on August 29,” Geo News reported. 
All major Pakistani media outlets reported on the verdict, saying the IHC had issued a short order for now and would issue a detailed verdict later.
Khan’s lawyers had opposed the government’s decision to hold a jail trial, saying they were concerned the ex-PM would not get a fair trial behind closed doors. Last month, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party also took the matter to the Islamabad High Court where its plea was turned down by Chief Justice Aamir Farooq who said there was apparently no malice behind the government’s decision to hold the jail trial.
Khan’s legal team then filed an intra-court appeal against the decision which led the Islamabad High Court to issue a stay order against the prison trial.
Last week, the Pakistan government approved Khan’s jail trial in a separate case of a £190 million settlement with a property tycoon.
Khan is currently being held at Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail where he is serving a three-year jail sentence in a case in which he was convicted in August for not declaring assets earned from the sale of state gifts while he was PM.

Pakistani parliament to meet on Mar. 9 to elect new president, Asif Ali Zardari front-runner

Updated 56 min 42 sec ago

Pakistani parliament to meet on Mar. 9 to elect new president, Asif Ali Zardari front-runner

  • A Pakistani president is elected by members of the Senate, National Assembly and all four provincial assemblies 
  • Asif Ali Zardari, who served as president from 2008-2013, is set to secure a second term in office after March 9

ISLAMABAD: The speaker of Pakistan’s National Assembly on Sunday summoned a meeting of the lower house of the parliament on March 9 to elect a new president, an official notification said. 

A president in Pakistan is elected through an electorate that comprises legislators from both houses of Pakistan’s parliament, the Senate, and the National Assembly, as well as the country’s four provincial assemblies. 

Elected for a five-year term, the president is a ceremonial head of state that has limited powers. The prime minister of the country, who heads the government, has more executive powers to manage the affairs of the country. 

“In exercise of the powers conferred by clause (b) of Rule 9 of the Presidential Election Rules, 1988, the Speaker has been pleased to summon the meeting of the members of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) in the Parliament House, Islamabad, on Saturday the 9th March, 2024, at 10:00 a.m. for the purpose of election to the office of the president of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” a notification by the National Assembly Secretariat read. 

Backed by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) coalition, former president Asif Ali Zardari is set to secure another term in office. He will contest the election against Mahmood Khan Achakzai, a veteran politician supported by the Imran Khan-backed Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) party. Achakzai also heads the Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP). 

Zardari, who is also the co-chairman of the PPP, served as president of Pakistan from 2008-2013. The government led by his party from 2008-2013 was the first one to serve a full term. 

However, after becoming president in September 2008, Zardari presided over a country gripped with militancy as it underwent a turbulent relationship with Washington. His government also went through an uneasy relationship with Pakistan’s powerful military and had to contend with nationwide flooding in 2010. 

Shehbaz Sharif, the coalition’s candidate for prime minister, was elected to office for a second time on Sunday after he secured 201 votes against the SIC-backed Omar Ayub, who polled 92 votes from legislators. 

The election on March 9 takes place months after the end of incumbent Pakistani President Arif Alvi’s term as the 13th president of Pakistan. President Alvi’s five-year term ended in September last year, but in Pakistan, a president may continue to stay in office constitutionally until his successor is elected to the presidency.

The PPP and the SIC both submitted nomination papers for Zardari and Achakzai as their candidates on Saturday. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said on Friday that a returning officer, appointed by the ECP, will scrutinize the nomination papers of the candidates’ documents by March 4.

Militant attacks spiked by 72 percent in Pakistan’s Balochistan province during February— report 

Updated 03 March 2024

Militant attacks spiked by 72 percent in Pakistan’s Balochistan province during February— report 

  • Report by Islamabad-based think tank states 57 attacks took place in Balochistan during February 
  • Fifty of those attacks occurred from Feb. 1-8, showing militants wanted to disrupt polling process, says report 

KARACHI: Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province saw a 72 percent increase in militant attacks during February, mostly as banned outfits targeted political parties’ election activities in days leading up to the polls, the managing director of a Pakistani think tank said on Sunday.

The security situation in Pakistan’s restive southwestern province remained precarious in February, especially in the days before the Feb. 8 polls. Twin blasts in Balochistan killed at least 28 people and injured scores of others on election eve, triggering security fears ahead of polls. 

In a report released on March 1, the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS) said 57 attacks in total took place in Balochistan during February, which resulted in 42 deaths and 72 injuries. January had witnessed 33 attacks, leading to 31 fatalities and 50 injuries in the province, the report said. It added that 30 out of the 57 attacks last month were directed at election activities. 

“As you may recall, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had announced that it would not target election activities while the terrorist groups active in Balochistan had openly threatened that they would target the election process,” Abdullah Khan, managing director of the PICSS, told Arab News.

The report pointed out that 50 out of the 57 attacks in Balochistan occurred from February 1-8 while only seven attacks were reported after the elections, “underscoring the militants’ primary focus on disrupting the election process, considering political participation in Pakistan a threat to their cause.”

The report said that in contrast, the security situation “improved” in the rest of the country during February, with a 54 percent drop in violence in the former FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) and a 23 percent reduction in mainland Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province. 

“In the tribal districts of KP, 11 attacks resulted in seven deaths and 17 injuries, compared to 24 attacks, 36 deaths, and 57 injuries in January,” the PICSS said. 

“Mainland KP witnessed 23 attacks with 35 deaths and 28 injuries, showing a decrease in attacks but an increase in human losses compared to January.”

Khan said militant attacks had decreased in KP due to the TTP’s decision to refrain from election violence. 

“ISKP was keen to carry out attacks against the election process but its operational capabilities in Pakistan are still no match to TTP,” Khan explained. 

Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest province by land yet its most sparsely populated and poor province. It has been the scene of a low-lying insurgency for the past two decades. Ethnic Baloch nationalists accuse the state of denying them a share in Balochistan’s mineral resources and now demand independence from the center. 

The state rejects these allegations and has vowed to quash any armed rebellion. 

Death toll from heavy rain, snowfall in Pakistan climbs to 29

Updated 03 March 2024

Death toll from heavy rain, snowfall in Pakistan climbs to 29

  • Pakistan’s disaster management authority forecasts heavy rain from March 5-7 in KP, Balochistan, upper and southern Punjab 
  • Highest number of casualties reported in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, 21, from February 27 to March 3, says authority 

ISLAMABAD: The death toll from heavy rains and snowfall in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces, and Azad Kashmir have climbed to 29, a report by the country’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said on Sunday. 

Heavy rains and snowfall this week have damaged hundreds of houses, scores of bridges and closed off routes in several areas of Pakistan, especially in the country’s KP province. 

As per the Losses and Damages report shared by the NDMA, the highest number of casualties from February 27 to March 2 took place in KP, 21, followed by Balochistan, 5, while three were killed in Azad Kashmir.

KP also reported the highest number of injured, 37, while one person was injured in Azad Kashmir and Balochistan each due to heavy rains and snowfall in the same time period. 

“Khyber Pakhtunkhwa deaths/injuries reported from Districts Mardan, Peshawar, Charsadda, Bajaur, Malakand, Lower Dir, Lakki Marwat, Khyber, Swat and Bannu,” the report said. 

The report said that 237 houses were damaged in Balochistan, 126 in KP and 47 in Azad Kashmir. 

The NDMA forecast heavy rainfall from next week in KP, Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, Balochistan and upper and southern Punjab. 

“Next heavy western rainfall spell is projected from 5-7 March [in] KP, AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan, upper and southern Punjab and Balochistan,” the report said. 

Pakistan ranks among the countries most vulnerable to climate change. Despite its minimal contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions, its geographical location exposes it to significant climate change risks, including glacial melt, sea-level rise, heatwaves and extreme weather events such as the devastating monsoon floods in 2022.

Saudi embassy, Pakistan join hands to provide Ramadan rations for the needy

Updated 03 March 2024

Saudi embassy, Pakistan join hands to provide Ramadan rations for the needy

  • Saudi embassy to take responsibility for the care of 100 orphans from Pakistan Sweet Homes, says state media 
  • Saudi relief agencies have previously collaborated with Pakistan Bait-ul-Maal to provide help the needy

ISLAMABAD: The Saudi embassy and Pakistan Bait-ul-Maal (PBM) this week agreed to join hands to distribute ration bags among the needy during Ramadan and to care for 100 orphans across the country, state-run media reported. 

The agreement took place on Friday when PBM Managing Director Syed Tariq Mahmood Al-Hassan visited the Saudi embassy in Islamabad at the invitation of Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Pakistan, Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki. 

Saudi relief agencies and other social organizations from the Kingdom have previously collaborated with the PBM on numerous projects aimed at helping the needy and vulnerable individuals. 

“The Saudi Embassy on Friday agreed to collaborate with Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal (PBM) to distribute ration bags during Ramadan ul Mubarak and take responsibility for the care of 100 orphans supported by Pakistan Sweet Home,” the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said in a report. 

It added that Malki assured Hassan of further cooperation from the embassy in additional social projects in Pakistan. 

Hassan thanked Malki and recognized Saudi Arabia’s focus on global social sectors. 

“He highlighted the enduring support between the two brotherly nations during challenging periods, emphasizing Saudi Arabia’s continual prioritization of Pakistan’s economy and social well-being,” the APP said. 

Karachi hunt for victory at home ground against table-toppers Multan today

Updated 03 March 2024

Karachi hunt for victory at home ground against table-toppers Multan today

  • Karachi have lost their last two matches on the trot against Islamabad, Quetta
  • Multan Sultans have won five out of their six matches in this year’s Pakistan Super League

ISLAMABAD: After suffering two back-to-back defeats at the hands of Quetta Gladiators and Islamabad United, Karachi Kings will be eyeing redemption by beating table-toppers Multan Sultans on their home turf today, Sunday. 

Skipper Shan Masood’s side have slipped to the fifth spot in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) points table after suffering three losses and only grabbing two wins from their five matches. 

The Sultans, on the other hand, have been spectacular this PSL. Rizwan’s side has fumbled only once, losing one match while winning five others, and look poised to qualify for the playoffs of this year’s PSL. 

“Bowling under the Karachi sun,” the Sultans wrote on social media platform X, uploading pictures of their players practicing at the National Bank Arena stadium on Saturday. 

The Kings will hope James Vince, Tim Seifert and skipper Masood finally step up while former Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik also hits his form to guide them to a win. The Kings’ spin trio of Tabraiz Shamsi, Mohammad Nawaz and Malik need to provide more support to the bowling line-up. 

Meanwhile, the Sultans are a formidable side altogether. Spinner Usama Mir and bowler Mohammad Ali have fared impressively throughout the tournament. Skipper Rizwan has pitched in and so have Usman Khan, Tayyab Tahir and David Willey. 

The last time the two sides locked horns on Feb. 18, the Sultans cruised to a 55-run win over the Kings. Will history repeat itself or will the Kings pull off an upset to make the tournament more competitive?

The match begins at 7:00 p.m. local time. 

Squads (probably playing XIs)

Multan Sultans: Reeza Hendricks, Mohammad Rizwan (c/wk), Dawid Malan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Tayyab Tahir, David Willey, Chris Jordan, Usama Mir, Abbas Afridi, Shahnawaz Dahani

Karachi Kings: Shan Masood (c), James Vince, Mohammad Akhlaq, Shoaib Malik, Irfan Niazi, Mohammad Nawaz, Daniel Sams, Hasan Ali, Blessing Muzarabani, Mir Hamza, Tabraiz Shamsi