The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday clubbed incarcerated Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s separate petitions seeking to stay the trial court’s proceedings in the cipher case and quash the case altogether.

On August 18, the former prime minister was booked under the Official Secrets Act 1923 in the cipher case after the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) invoked Section 5 of the said law. The diplomatic cable reportedly went missing from Khan’s possession. According to the former ruling party, the cable contained a threat from the US to topple the PTI government. It is pertinent to mention here that a special court, while hearing the cipher case in Adiala Jail on October 10, announced that the PTI Chairman Imran Khan and Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi would be indicted in the cipher case on the 17th of this month.

At the outset of Thursday’s hearing, Sardar Latif Khosa, Khan’s counsel, argued that the matter about the cipher case was in the high court while the Lahore High Court (LHC) has also issued a stay in a case filed by the FIA in this regard. In this situation, he pleaded with the high court to suspend the trial court proceedings and stop it from indicting the former prime minister in the case.

Khosa said his team repeatedly urged the trial court that the matter should not be decided in haste as the case was already in the high court but it fixed October 17 as the date to indict the former premier in the diplomatic cable case.

“We have a lot of concerns about the Official Secrets (Amendment) Act, 2023,” he argued.

In August, President Arif Alvi denied signing the Official Secrets (Amendment) Bill, 2023 and the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill, 2023, claiming that his staff “undermined” his orders.

It is pertinent to mention here that Khan and Qureshi were arrested after a first information report (FIR) was registered against them under the Official Secrets Act for disclosing the contents of the diplomatic cipher for political gains on August 15.

At this, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq asked the PTI’s lawyer if he clubbed the miscellaneous applications with the main case.

Agreeing with the judge, Khosa urged the court to fix a date for hearing the case ahead of October 17 as the trial court had set the date for Khan’s indictment. At this, the judge said that he would look into this and would fix a date ahead of October 17.

Meanwhile, the Special Court Judge, Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain, issued a four-page written order on the October 9 hearing in the cipher case in which copies of the investigation report were provided to the former prime minister Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi. The court issued the written order here on Thursday.

The four-page written order of the hearing conducted in Adiala Jail says the PTI lawyers could not bring forth any court order to suspend the hearing.

The PTI lawyers requested to present arguments as usual in the hearing of the cipher case, the order said. It added that the court ordered the suspects to receive the copies of the case as per the decision of previous hearing.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s lawyers filed a new application for conducting the hearing in an open court, the verdict says.

The court had ordered to present Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi in court to provide them copies of the investigation report. According to the PTI lawyers, the trial should not be held in-camera as the prison court is very small. The lawyers further said the bail application in the cipher case is pending before the Islamabad High Court.

The PTI chief refused to sign the copy of the investigation report, which was provided as per law. The order to sign the copy is issued on the next hearing, the written verdict said.

The order said that on the next hearing, criminal proceedings will be initiated strictly according to law.

The issue of the cells of Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi was also raised before the court.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi submitted a petition seeking to annul the notification of the Law Ministry regarding the trial in Adiala Jail. The verdict says that the ministry was ordered to provide an explanation on the notification to hold a trial in Adiala Jail.

The copies of the investigation report will be provided to the suspects but will depend on the decision of Islamabad High Court. The court provided the copies to the suspects and also directed them to sign.

PTI lawyer Sher Afzal Marwat told the court that the suspects would not sign the copies of report. The judge also visited the Adiala Jail to solve the problems allegedly being faced by PTI Chairman Imran Khan. The court ordered to demolish the wall erected in front of Imran Khan’s cell.

According to the jail superintendent, the PTI chief has been provided space to walk, adding that he has requested for further extension of his cell despite adequate space.

Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi will be indicted in the case on October 17, said Judge Zulqarnain


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2023-10-13

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