Special court formed to hear cipher case in camera

Published August 22, 2023
PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi is presented in an Islamabad special court amid a strong police presence on Monday.— screengrab
PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi is presented in an Islamabad special court amid a strong police presence on Monday.— screengrab

ISLAMABAD: A special court, established on Monday to hear the cases filed under the Official Sec­rets Act, handed over former foreign minister and vice chairman of Pakis­tan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Shah Mehmood Qur­eshi to the Federal Inves­tigation Agency (FIA) on a four-day physical remand in the cipher case.

Mr Qureshi is named in the First Information Report (FIR) registered against him under the Official Secrets Act.

The federal government has already notified Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain of the Anti-Terrorism Court as the judge of the special court to preside over the trial under the Official Secrets Act.

Mr Qureshi was presented before Judge Zulqa­r­nain under tight security. The court declared the proceedings as in-camera. Advocate Shoaib Shaheen represented Mr Qureshi.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi remanded in FIA custody

The prosecutor from the FIA requested custody of Mr Qureshi for the recovery of the missing cipher and related documents.

The judge remanded him into custody for four days and directed the prosecution to produce Mr Qureshi on August 25.

According to the FIR, a case has been registered against former prime minister Imran Khan and Mr Qureshi under sections 5 and 9 of the Official Sec­rets Act, 1923, read with Section 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

They have been accused of wrongful communicat­ion/use of official secret inf­ormation and illegal retention of a cipher telegram (an official secret doc­ument) with mala fide intention, whereas the roles of former SPM Muha­m­mad Azam Khan, former federal minister Asad Umer, and other involved associates will be ascertained during the course of the investigations.

It said former PM Khan, former FM Qureshi and their other associates are involved in communicat­ion of information conta­ined in secret classified doc­ument (cipher telegram received from Parep Washington dated March 7, 2022 to the Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Aff­airs) to the unauthorised per­sons (i.e. public at large) by twisting facts to achieve their ulterior moti­ves and personal gains in a manner prejudicial to the interests of state security.

They held a clandestine meeting at Banigala on March 28, 2022 to conspire to misuse the contents of the cipher in order to accomplish their nefarious designs.

The accused, Mr Khan, with mala fide directed the former principal secretary, Azam Khan, to prepare the minutes of said clandestine meeting by manipulating the contents of the cipher message to use it for his vested interest at the cost of national safety.

Moreover, the numbe­red and accountable copy of the cipher telegram sent to PM Office was deliberately kept by the former PM, with mala fide intention, and was never returned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The said cipher telegram (official secret document classified as such) is still in the illegal possession/retention of the accused Mr Khan, the FIR claimed.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2023

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