Cipher case sees Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi facing indictment once more.

On December 13 in Islamabad, Imran Khan, the founder of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and the party’s Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi were indicted anew in the cipher case. The special court established under the Official Secrets Act 2023, presided over by Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain, issued the indictment against the PTI leaders.

Both politicians have pleaded not guilty regarding their alleged involvement in misusing a diplomatic cable for political purposes, marking the second instance of their indictment.

During the court proceedings, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Special Prosecutors Shah Khawar and Zulfiqar Abbas Naqvi were present, representing the prosecution, while Khan and Qureshi were represented by their respective lawyers, Usman Gul and Barrister Taimur Malik.

Following their indictment, the regular trial for leaking state secrets, scheduled for October 23, is set to commence in Adiala jail in Rawalpindi.

Tuesday’s court session saw the presence of family members of the PTI leaders and a limited number of reporters allowed to observe the proceedings. PTI lawyers submitted six petitions concerning incomplete case documents, media access, and jail trial notifications.

Meanwhile, Khan’s lawyer, Salman Safdar, raised concerns about the pace of proceedings, citing challenges against two verdicts issued under the Official Secrets Act in the IHC. However, the FIA prosecutor emphasized that the high court hadn’t halted the special court’s proceedings and urged swift completion of the indictment process.

Judge Zulqarnain asserted a commitment to making decisions based on merit and maintaining impartiality throughout the case.

Previously, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had nullified the jail trial following challenges by Khan and Qureshi but later, the federal cabinet approved the continuation of the trial, resulting in their recent indictment.

As per the FIA’s charge sheet, both Khan and Qureshi were accused of misconduct related to a diplomatic cable, with Azam Khan, Khan’s former principal secretary, cited as a crucial witness.

The FIA attached transcripts of speeches made by Khan and Qureshi on March 27, the day Khan displayed a letter alleging foreign interference. Additionally, statements of 28 witnesses, including former foreign secretaries, were submitted.

The “ciphergate” controversy originated when Khan waved a letter during a rally on March 27, claiming it was from a foreign nation conspiring against his government. The contents were undisclosed, but Khan later accused the US of involvement. Subsequently, audio leaks surfaced, implicating Khan’s team in discussing the US cipher.

In response, investigative committees were formed after Khan’s removal, seeking clarification regarding the alleged foreign involvement mentioned in the cipher.

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