A special court, established to hear cases under the Official Secrets Act, on Thursday granted permission to former prime minister Imran Khan — presently held at Attock Jail — to have a telephonic conversation with his sons as provided under the law.
The PTI chief was sent to jail after he was convicted in the Toshakhana case. Earlier this week, the Islamabad High Court suspended his sentence. However, the special court had directed Attock jail authorities to keep him in “judicial lockup” in connection with the cipher case.
Yesterday, the special court had remanded Imran’s judicial remand till Sep 13 during a hearing held at the Attock prison.
The cipher case pertains to a diplomatic document which reportedly went missing from Imran’s possession. The PTI alleges that it contained a threat from the United States to oust Imran from power. Proceedings against Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the PTI vice chairman and former foreign minister, are also under way in the same case.
In a plea filed before Special Court Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain today, the former premier sought permission to have a talk with his sons on the phone.
In the plea, Imran’s lawyer Barrister Umer Khan Niazi pointed out that the applicant “wishes to speak to his real sons, Suleman Khan and Qasim Khan, over telephone/WhatsApp.”
Furthermore, the lawyer emphasised that the applicant “holds the legal right to engage in telephonic conversations with his sons, and as per regulations, the applicant is entitled to such interactions”.
“It is therefore respectfully prayed that the superintendent District Jail Attock may kindly be directed to arrange the meeting of the applicant/accused lmran Ahmad Khan Niazi with his sons namely Suleman and Qasim on telephone/Whatsapp,” the request said.
In response, Judge Zulqarnain approved the plea and instructed the prison administration to facilitate the telephonic conversation between the applicant and his sons in accordance with the law.
“Instant application is allowed. Superintendent District Jail Attock is directed make necessary arrangements for phone call between accused and his sons in accordance with jail rules and manual,” the judge said in his brief order.
IHC seeks response on PTI chief’s plea against cipher hearings
Separately, the IHC has sought responses from the law ministry and other respondents on Imran’s plea against the recent decision to move the cipher case hearing from Islamabad to Attock Jail.
The order came a day after the former premier had filed a petition in the court on the matter — hours after his cipher case hearing was held in the office of the deputy superintendent of the Attock district jail.
The PTI chief had challenged the appointment of Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain, an anti-terrorism court (ATC) judge, to the special court, which was formed to hear cases filed under the Official Secrets Act, 1923.
He had also challenged a notification issued by the law ministry which had allowed Imran’s trial in the cipher case to be held at Attock jail citing “security concerns”.
The petition alleged that the special court judge was “lacking the essential qualification” for the role, citing the qualification of an ATC judge had been defined under section 13(2) of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.
Today, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq presided over the hearing on the plea with objections while Advocate Sher Afzal Marwat appeared before the court as Imran’s counsel.
At the outset of the hearing, Marwat informed the IHC that two objections had been raised by the court’s registrar upon the filing of the petition.
He then explained that one of them was that “more than one request” had been made in the same petition. At this, the chief justice asked, “Why does it matter? “I can remove the objections [if] you present arguments on merit,” he added.
Justice Farooq asked: “Was the court venue shifted?” The PTI lawyer answered that the court designated to hear cases filed under the Secrets Act was that of a magistrate.
“Authorising an anti-terrorism court judge to hear cases filed under the Official Secrets Act is wrong,” Marwat asserted.
He then urged the court to issue notices to the respondents seeking their response on the matter, which the chief justice allowed.
Marwat then requested the court to fix the next hearing for the coming week as it was an urgent matter, to which Justice Farooq agreed and adjourned the hearing till the next week.
The date for the next hearing has yet to be finalised.