ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court on Monday issued a notice to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on a petition seeking post-arrest bail for former prime minister Imran Khan in the cipher case.

Barrister Salman Safdar, counsel for the incarcerated PTI chairman, argued before IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq that the trial court had ignored certain facts while dismissing the bail plea of the ex-premier.

Judge Abual Hasnat Mohammad Zulqarnain of the Special Court, recently established under Official Secrets Act, had on Sept 14 dismissed the petitions of Imran Khan and PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi seeking post-arrest bail in the cipher case.

In his order, the judge had stated: “Perusal of the record transpires that accused/petitioners namely Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi and Shah Mehmood Qureshi are nominated in FIR with their respective roles. Sufficient incriminating material is available on record to connect the accused/petitioners with the instant case.

Special court seeks jail authorities’ explanation for not allowing ex-PM to call sons in UK

“Record further depicts that there appear reasonable grounds for believing that accused/petitioners are guilty of offence under sections 5 and 9 of the Official Secrets Act.”

Section 5 relates to the wrongful communication of confidential information, while Section 9 is about an attempt to commit or abet the commission of an offence under the Official Secrets Act.

The PTI chief’s petition before the IHC contended that sections 5 and 9 were not applicable to the cipher case, nor did the law have “any remote relevance to the allegations detailed in the FIR”.

When Barrister Safdar sought an early hearing of the case, Justice Farooq said the registrar office scheduled hearing of the petitions in accordance with standard operating procedures and advised the counsel to wait until Monday for his turn.

The petition contended that former interior minister Rana Sanaullah and the FIA had made “contradictory statements”, according to which, the “original cipher document is securely held in the custody of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs”, adding that the FIR could have been lodged by the foreign ministry.

The petition alleged that the state machinery was being misused with the sole objective of political victimisation and settling score. It said Imran Khan faced 180 criminal cases; however, the cipher case was registered after other cases against him turned out to be “baseless and frivolous”.

The petition contended that the Official Secrets Act could have been invoked in case Mr Khan would have shared the confidential information with an “enemy state”.

It went on to state that the investigation agency could not recover anything from Mr Khan.

Mr Khan and Mr Qureshi are on judicial remand till Sept 26 and the Special Court has already directed the FIA to submit a challan of the case.

Phone facility

Meanwhile, the Special Court sought an explanation from the superintendent of Attock Jail for not permitting Imran Khan to make a call to his children in the UK.

Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain issued the order while hearing an application seeking contempt proceedings against jail authorities for not implementing the court Sept 11 order allowing the former PM to call his sons.

The Punjab prison department had refused permission to Mr Khan to make a call to his children, saying the suspects held under the Official Secrets Act were not entitled to telephonic facility.

The superintendent of Attock Jail submitted a report to the Special Court in response to the directive for the jail authorities to provide phone facility to Mr Khan who is detained under the Official Secrets Act in connection with the cipher case.

The report stated that “there is no provision in Pakistan Prison Rules 1978 which allows any prisoner to have telephonic conversation outside country”. It referred to a letter by the inspector general (prisons) stating that “prisoners involved in Official Secrets Act 1923 are not allowed public call office (PCO) facility”.

“As per current SOPs, it is not possible/lawful to extend the facility of PCO to the prisoners confined in Punjab jails who are convicted under Pakistan Army Act or Official Secrets Act,” the letter added.

The counsel of Imran Khan, on the other hand, argued that the prisons department wrongly interpreted the rules as the restriction is for the condemned prisoners only and the former premier is an under-trial prisoner, adding that there is no provision for denying the call facility to the UTP.

The judge sought a reply from the jail administration and adjou­rned further hearing till Sept 28.

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2023

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