ISLAMABAD: The Special Court on Monday indicted former prime minister Imran Khan and ex-foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in the cipher case.

Special Court Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain conducted the hearing at Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail.

According to sources, the two PTI leaders pleaded not guilty and subsequently, the judge summoned the witnesses on Oct 27 and asked the prosecution to place evidence to substantiate the allegations.

Judge Zulqarnain also rejected the application to stop the framing of charges against the two PTI leaders.

The charge sheet read out by the judge stated that Mr Khan “illegally retained and wrongly communicated” the cipher, Dawn.com reported.

PTI chief unlikely to be produced before ECP today

“The said information/cipher was relating to top secret information which was inter-se two states, i.e., [the] United States and Pakistan.”

According to the charge sheet, the PTI chief, while holding the office of the prime minister, used the cipher in a “prohibited place (jalsa)” and “willfully communicated” the secret information to unauthorised persons, which was against the “interest of the State of Pakistan”.

“The cipher was entrusted to you in confidence by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs [but] you used the document while keeping it in your possession for the benefit of your personal political designs and compromised the cipher and the security system of Pakistan,” it read.

Talking to the media outside the Adiala Jail, Special Prosecutor Shah Khawar said the defence counsel opposed the indictment.

He said that since challan copies and other related documents had already been handed over to the accused, the court indicted both of them and summoned witnesses to record statements.

PTI to challenge indictment

Meanwhile, the PTI chairman’s lawyer, Advocate Umair Niazi, told the media that his client had denied the crime. He said the court’s order would be challenged in the high court, according to Dawn.com.

Advocate Usman Riaz Gul, another member of Mr Khan’s legal team, said they informed the court that even though the indictment date was fixed, the suspects could not be indicted until complete statements of witnesses and case memo were received.

He added that the court rejected the defendants’ objections and indicted the two leaders.

“The PTI chairman and Mr Qureshi had stated that they could not respond to the charges until all the documents related to the case were received.”

On September 30, the Federal Investigation Agency submitted the challan before the court declaring the PTI leaders principal accused in the case registered under sections 5 and 9 of the Official Secrets Act for disclosure of the contents of classified diplomatic cable and misplacing the same.

The court had decided that the two PTI leaders would be indicted on Oct 17. However, last week, it had put off the indictment.

Security concerns

Meanwhile, the PTI chief is unlikely to be produced before a bench of the ECP which is set to hear two contempt cases against him.

A four-member bench of the ECP, headed by Member Sindh Nisar Ahmed Durrani, last week issued orders for production of the former prime minister as charges are to be framed against him in the contempt case.

Sources told Dawn that the Ministry of Interior, citing security reasons, has verbally conveyed to the ECP that it would not be possible to produce Mr Khan.

The sources said the ministry, as well as the Islamabad Capital Territory police have informed the electoral body with reference to the ‘risks’ involved if the PTI chairman is produced before the ECP bench today (Tuesday).

“They have informed the commission that it will be risky to ensure PTI chairman’s presence for hearing of the ECP bench,” the sources said.

The ECP bench had released two separate but almost identical production orders for Mr Khan and Fawad Chaudhry.

Production order for Mr Khan and bailable warrants of arrest for Mr Chaudhry had been issued.

Meanwhile, ECP on Monday reserved verdict on a fresh application filed by the Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party, seeking ‘Eagle’ as its election symbol.

A three-member ECP bench, headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, heard the matter.

The petitioner’s lawyer appeared before the bench and requested it to allot the party the desired election symbol. The CEC wanted to know what were their priorities other than ‘eagle’.

The counsel for IPP insisted that they might be allotted the same. Later, the ECP reserved its verdict on the matter.

Iftikhar A. Khan also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2023

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