• Law minister Tarar says ex-PM to be tried under Official Secrets Act for manipulating confidential cipher
• Javed Latif hints at action under Article 6, Dastgir draws parallels with case against Trump
• Imran can’t escape even if Azam Khan retracts his statement, says Musadik
ISLAMABAD: In light of an alleged confession by one of his closest aides, the government is planning to prosecute former prime minister Imran Khan under two separate sections of the Official Secrets Act for “retaining” the confidential cipher in a purported bid to stall his ouster from power.
On Thursday, at least four members of the federal cabinet, in separate pressers, assailed the PTI chief on the basis of the supposed confession of Azam Khan, the ex-PM’s former principal secretary.
In his press conference, Law and Justice Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar said the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which is probing the cipher case, summoned the PTI chairman on July 25. The minister added the FIA will examine the matter under sections 3 and 5 (a), (b) of the Official Secrets Act.
According to the minister, Mr Khan used the cipher for vested interests and to dodge the no-confidence motion. He said that the PTI chairman tried to create a rift between friendly countries and undermined national security for which he could get lifetime imprisonment.
The minister said that the FIA had also summoned the former principal secretary Azam Khan and will examine his statement as well.
He assured of a merit-based investigation in this matter and said that the court would decide the evidential value and the admissibility of the statement attributed to the ex-principal secretary.
The minister said that Mr Khan will have all the legal rights, including the option to challenge the decision of the court at an appropriate forum.
A day earlier, Azam Khan who went missing on June 15, returned home after his alleged confession surfaced on social media.
As per the alleged confession, “The cipher copy was retained by Imran Khan and the next day (March 10) when he asked for it, Imran Khan replied that he has misplaced it.” The statement claimed that the PTI chief did not return the original cipher, despite repeated requests.
Section 3 (c) of the act states: if a person “obtains, collects, records or publishes or communicates to any other person any secret official code or password, or any sketch, plan, model, article or note or other document or information which is calculated to be or might be or is intended to be, directly or indirectly, useful to an enemy; he shall be guilty of an offence under this section”.
Section 5 states: “If any person having in his possession or control any secret official …document or information which relates to or is used in a prohibited place or relates to anything in such a place, or which has been made or obtained in contravention of this Act, or which has been entrusted in confidence to him by any person… (a) wilfully communicates the code or password, sketch, plan, model, article, note, document or information to any person other than a person to whom he is authorised to communicate it…(b) uses the information in his possession for the benefit of any foreign power or in any other manner prejudicial to the safety of the State.”
Ministers assail Imran
In a separate presser, Khurram Dastgir claimed Imran Khan violated the Official Secrets Act of Pakistan by disclosing the cipher in public, APP reported. Mr Dastgir said the PTI chief “destroyed Pakistan’s diplomatic relations with other countries” for political gains.
He said receiving ciphers from different countries and calling their ambassadors to discuss the subject was a routine matter, but the former prime minister “painted the US cipher [in negative light] for his political gains”.
In a comment on the potential case against the former premier, he said that former US president Donald Trump was facing similar charges after he took some secret documents home with him.
Separately, Javed Latif – PML-N’s minister-without-portfolio – hinted at the possibility of trying the PTI chief under the sedition law – saying that Article 6 should be enforced against those who violate the Constitution, incite rebellion, and undermine the strength of the nation.
He also demanded Imran Khan’s arrested and prosecuted for allegedly conspiring against the nation, in light of the purported statement of Azam Khan.
In addition, Musadik Malik declared that now that Imran Khan’s guilt had been proven, there was no escape for the former PM, even if Azam Khan retracted his ‘confessional statement’, APP reported.
Under the law, he said, the punishment for making a secret document public was 17 years imprisonment, while he could face three years in jail for misplacing it.
Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2023