ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investiga­tion Agency (FIA) on Saturday filed a challan (charge sheet) in the Special Court established under the Official Secrets Act, declaring former prime minister Imran Khan and ex-foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi principal accused in the cipher case.

The other suspects in the case, including former principal secretary Azam Khan and former federal minister Asad Umar, have been placed in column 2 of the challan, sources privy to the development said. The names of the accused not sent up for trial included in this column. The absconders’ names are also included in this column, but with red ink.

PTI leaders Imran Khan and Mr Qureshi have been placed in column 3 that describes the names and addresses of the accused sent for trial.

The FIA invoked in the challan sections 5 and 9 of the Official Secrets Act which may lead to death sentence, or two to 14 years’ imprisonment, if proved.

PTI rejects FIA challan, reiterates demand for judicial inquiry

While the investigation agency cited 27 witnesses in the challan, the sources said that about a dozen of them would be produced in the witness box.

The star witness, Azam Khan, has already testified against Imran Khan. His statement emerged following his months-long disappearance. He has reportedly stated that the former premier used the confidential document to divert public attention from the no-confidence motion filed against him in parliament at the time.

The statement further alleged that the PTI chief told Azam Khan that he would display the cipher to the public and “twist the narrative that a foreign conspiracy was being hatched in collusion with local partners and play the victim card”.

According to the statement, Mr Azam had handed over the cipher to Mr Imran who later told him that he had misplaced it and did not return it despite repeated requests.

The FIA submitted the challan before the trial court at a time when Mr Khan filed a petition seeking post-arrest bail in the cipher case.

His counsel, besides other arguments, pointed out that the prosecution did not submit the challan.

PTI’s reaction

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf vehemently rejected the FIA challan and reiterated the demand for the formation of a high-level judicial commission to probe the cipher conspiracy so as to bring the truth to the fore.

A PTI spokesperson said the FIA’s challan filed against party chief Imran Khan and vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi was “meaningless and worthless like the fake and bogus cipher case itself”. “It is the fact that the cipher is still present in the Foreign Office in its original state, which proves the allegations levelled against the former prime minister are baseless.”

The spokesperson said the federal cabinet had declassified the paraphrased version of the cipher which the Foreign Office provided after which the Official Secrets Act could not be applied and the case died its own death, as the original cipher is coded and only the Foreign Office has access to it.

He recalled that the PTI chairman repeatedly demanded an independent and impartial investigation into the cipher for which letters were also sent to the president and chief justice of Pakistan, but no progress had been made till date.

Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2023

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