Former prime minister Imran Khan and ex-foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi are to be indicted in the cipher case on October 17, the special court decided on Monday.

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 the party chairman from office.

Imran was shifted to Attock jail on August 5, 2023, after a court sentenced him to three years in prison in the Toshakhana graft case. Following the suspension of the sentence, it had emerged that he had been on judicial remand in the cipher case.

On September 26, both PTI leaders’ judicial remand was extended until October 10 and as per the Islamabad High Court’s orders, the PTI chief was shifted to Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail from Attock district jail.

On September 30, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) submitted a challan (charge sheet) in the Special Court established under the Official Secrets Act, declaring Imran and Qureshi as principal accused in the cipher case.

Imran has moved the IHC against his jail trial in the cipher case as well as sought suspension of the trial court’s verdict — not just sentence — in the Toshakhana case.

Today, Special Court Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain presided over the cipher case hearing at the Adiala jail, where special prosecutor Zulfikar Naqvi and the FIA’s team also appeared.

Qureshi’s son and daughter, Zain and Mehr Bano, respectively, had also reached the jail prior to the hearing. However, it is not clear whether they attended the hearing.

The investigation officer appeared before the court along with copies of the challan while Barrister Salman Safdar was present as Imran’s counsel.

During the hearing, the PTI chairman and the vice-chairman were presented before the court, where Imran briefly met his legal team from behind bars.

The special prosecutor informed the court that he could not provide the suspects with copies of the “entire case” but would only give them the “necessary copies”.

The copies of the challan in the case were then provided to Imran and Qureshi.

It was decided that both leaders would be indicted during the next hearing, which would be held on October 17, marking the official start of the trial.

Notices of summons would also be issued to the prosecution’s side of witnesses in the next hearing.

Imran didn’t sign challan copies: lawyer

Talking to the media outside the Adiala jail after the hearing, Safdar said Imran “strongly protested against the inhumane treatment” meted out to him.

The lawyer highlighted that neither did the former premier “accept the copies of the case nor signed on them”. He said the team would challenge “today’s one-sided order of distributing copies” of the challan.

He quoted the PTI chief as saying that he “only wanted facilities as per the jail manual”, adding that his client wanted “movement and exercise” in the jailroom.

On Imran’s health, Safdar said the PTI chairman was energetic but his “blood pressure was high due to the injustices” against him.

The PTI lawyer also objected to the jail trial “under the premise of security concerns” and demanded an open hearing of the cipher case trial.

Judge visits Imran, Qureshi in jail

Meanwhile, the special court judge made a surprise visit today to the jailrooms where both PTI leaders are incarcerated.

Following the visit, Judge Zulqarnain told reporters that Imran complained about the lack of walking space in his cell. Therefore, a “60-70-feet-space” would be made for walking by demolishing a wall outside his cell, the judge added.

“A bathroom is also connected with the cell. There is a clean environment,” the judge said. He further said that Sher Afzal Marwat, one of Imran’s lawyers, was the one to advise the ex-premier to not sign the copies of the challan.

While Judge Zulqarnain stated that Imran has “received the copies of the challan [but] is hesitating from signing them”, he also noted that the lawyers have taken the copies with them.

“I also asked whether he wanted the trial to be held or not. If there is no order issued by the high court, he will be indicted on October 17,” the judge said.

“When he has taken the copies of the challan, not signing them is inappropriate,” he added.

Opinion

Editorial

Time for dialogue
Updated 24 Jun, 2024

Time for dialogue

If the PML-N and PTI remain mired in mutual acrimony, an ever-widening gap will continue to allow non-political forces to assert themselves.
Property taxes
24 Jun, 2024

Property taxes

ACCORDING to reports in the local media, along with the higher taxes imposed on real estate in the recent budget, ...
Fierce heat
24 Jun, 2024

Fierce heat

CLIMATE change is unfolding as predicted by experts: savage heat, melting glaciers, extreme rainfall, drought, ...
China’s concerns
23 Jun, 2024

China’s concerns

Pakistan has no option but to neutralise militant threat to Chinese projects, as well as address its business and political stability concerns.
War drums
23 Jun, 2024

War drums

If it is foolish enough to launch another war in Lebanon, Tel Aviv will be solely responsible for setting the Middle East on fire.
Balochistan budget
23 Jun, 2024

Balochistan budget

BALOCHISTAN’S Rs955.6bn budget for the fiscal year 2024-25 makes many pledges to the poor citizens of Pakistan’s...