The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday combined former prime minister Imran Khan’s separate petitions seeking to stay the trial court proceedings in the cipher case and dismiss the case altogether.

The cipher case pertains to a diplomatic document that reportedly went missing from Imran’s possession. The PTI alleges that the document contained a threat from the United States to oust Khan from office.

The PTI chief was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison in the Toshakhana graft case on August 5, 2023. He was subsequently shifted to Attock jail, but the IHC later suspended his sentence. However, Khan remained in jail because he was on judicial remandin the cipher case.

On September 26, the IHC accepted Imran’s petition to be shifted to Adiala jail in Rawalpindi from Attock district jail.

On September 30, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) submitted a challan —a charge sheet — in the Special Court established under the Official Secrets Act, naming the former prime minister and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi as the principal accused in the cipher case.

Imran has filed several petitions in the IHC, including one seeking to stay his jail trial in the cipher case, another seeking to suspend the Toshakhana verdict, and a third against his indictment in the cipher case, which is set for October 17.

Today, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq took up a separate plea seeking the stay of Imran’s trial in the cipher case and clubbed it with the main plea, wherein he has sought the dismissal of the case and be fixed for hearing.

During the hearing, senior lawyer Sardar Latif Khosa appeared as Imran’s counsel and informed the court that the pleas were seeking the stay of the trial court proceedings and challenging the special court’s order of indictment.

He further said that the matter was pending before the IHC and a verdict had been reserved, adding that the Lahore High Court has also issued a stay order in a case by the FIA.

Khosa reiterated that he had urged the special court to “not hurry” as the matter was pending before the high court.

The lawyer went on to emphasise that he had “plenty of concerns” regarding the application of the Official Secrets Act in the case.

“What security was compromised or which secrecy [sic] was leaked? Bhutto sahib had also made similar remarks in his speech in Raja Bazaar, so what?

“My client is a national hero and the world knows and believes that. Now, he is in jail [while] innocent,” Khosa asserted.

Justice Farooq then asked him if the separate plea should be combined with that seeking dismissal of the case, to which Khosa agreed on the condition that it would be fixed before October 17.

When Justice Farooq inquired what would happen on October 17, the counsel replied, “There would be great unpleasantness on October 17. A trial is under way. Indictment is to take place.”

The chief justice then observed that he would review the matter and issue an order on it, assuring that the pleas would be fixed for hearing before October 17.

Meanwhile, Imran’s lawyer, Naeem Haider Panjutha lamented the delay in today’s hearing of his client’s bail plea in the cipher case.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), he said the hearing was supposed to start at 2pm but it had not started till 2:34pm at least. He added that even the previous hearing began late, due to which it had to be adjourned.

Objections on plea against indictment removed

Separately, the IHC also removed objections to the plea filed a day ago that challenged the special court’s indictment order of October 9.

Justice Farooq also took up this plea today while Sher Afzal Marwat appeared as Imran’s lawyer and argued that his client had not accepted the copies of the case while the order stated otherwise.

Marwat further asserted that the PTI chief had not accepted the copies of the indictment challan (charge sheet) either while Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain had claimed the contrary.

He urged the court to remove the objections to the petition, to which Justice Farooq responded that he would review the rules under which the objections had been raised and how to remove them.

Marwat lamented that the special court did not even wait for the IHC’s verdict on the former premier’s plea against his jail trial.

Subsequently, the IHC reviewed the court rules and directed for the objections to the plea to be removed.

Imran urges supporters to ‘not give up’, demands fair polls

Imran has reiterated that he would not leave Pakistan “to go anywhere” and demand fair and free elections in the country.

In a message posted on his X (formerly Twitter) account today, which was said to be shared with his family on Tuesday, the ex-premier recounted the past two months spent in jail.

Terming the first few days as “particularly challenging”, he stated he was not provided with a bed and had to sleep on the floor, with “insects and mosquitoes” crawling all over him. However, he adjusted to the jail conditions with time, he added.

“Let it be known that there’s a difference of day and night between the Imran Khan of today and the Imran Khan who was imprisoned on August 5. Today I am stronger and fitter; spiritually, mentally and physically, than ever before.”

He asserted that he would not “back down even an inch from the quest of Haqeeqi Azadi, for the upholding of the rule of law and the Constitution of Pakistan, at the core of which is free and fair elections”, adding “I will not leave my land to go anywhere”.

Speaking about the cipher case against him, the PTI chief alleged that “treason was committed” against him and his government by former army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Donald Lu.

Referring to the arrests and cases filed against numerous PTI leaders, Imran said: “If there’s one thing that bothers and pains me, is the suffering of my workers who have been illegally imprisoned, especially our women workers who have been in captivity for months, by a few people who abuse their power to satisfy their egos.”

He urged his supporters to “not give up”, to continue raising their voices against the “unelected predatory group and their facilitators at every forum”, and to keep demanding fair and transparent elections.

The PTI chairman concluded his message by asserting that on the day of polls, his party would “defeat all these parties (political opponents) combined”. “No matter how much these people cheat, their only destiny is defeat. Pakistan Zindabad.”

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