Imran wants ‘ex-army general, US envoy’ to be summoned for cipher trial: lawyer

Published December 4, 2023
PTI lawyer Babar Awan speaks to media persons outside Adiala Jail on Monday. — DawnNewsTV
PTI lawyer Babar Awan speaks to media persons outside Adiala Jail on Monday. — DawnNewsTV

PTI lawyer Babar Awan said on Monday that former prime minister Imran Khan wants an “ex-army general and a US envoy” to be summoned by the special court hearing the cipher case.

According to Awan, Imran said this during the case proceedings at Adiala Jail, where he is currently incarcerated. “Imran Khan has said that the US embassy representative should be called and he also took the name of a former general,” he said during a media talk.

While the PTI lawyer did not name the former military officer, media persons who attended the cipher case hearing today said Imran mentioned ex-army chief retired General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

The cipher case pertains to a diplomatic document that the Federal Investigation Agency’s charge sheet alleges was never returned by Imran. The PTI has long held that the document contained a threat from the United States to oust Imran as prime minister.

Imran and ex-foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who is also behind bars, were first indicted in the case on Oct 23. Both had pleaded not guilty. The trial was being held at Adiala Jail and four witnesses had alre­a­dy recorded their statements, with the fifth being cross-examined when an Islamabad High Court division bench termed the government’s notification for a jail trial “erroneous” and scrap­ped the entire proceedings.

As a result of the judgement, the special court started a fresh trial. Last week, Special Court Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqar­nain ruled that the trial proceedings would continue at the Adiala Jail but in an open court.

However, on Saturday, jail authorities prevented media people from entering the jail, with many local and international journalists outside when the hearing began. After the hearing ended, it came to light that three reporters from different TV channels were allowed to witness the proceedings, but that too after the hearing had ended and the prosecutors had already left the courtroom.

During the hearing, Qureshi had urged the special court to summon President Dr Arif Alvi so he could testify before the court whether he had assented to changes in the Official Secrets Act, 1923.

In August, President Alvi had denied approving changes to the Secrets Act — under which the cipher trial is being held — and the Pakistan Army Act while the law ministry had rebuked his statement and asked him to “take responsibility for his own actions”.

Today, the special court ruled that Imran and Qureshi would be indicted in the case again on December 12.

The hearing

Judge Zulqarnain resumed hearing the case at the Adiala Jail. Family members and lawyers of the incarcerated PTI leaders were in attendance along with special prosecutor Zulfikar Abbas Naqvi and Rizwan Abbasi.

Six members of the media were allowed to attend the proceedings.

At the outset, the judge expressed displeasure at PTI lawyer Usman Gul for not arriving in court on time. “The next hearing should begin on time and witnesses be produced in court,” he directed, adding that both the sides should mutually decide a time.

Judge Zulqarnain then instructed the parties to check if all the documents in the case record were present so that the same could be distributed.

Here, the PTI lawyer inquired about the law under which the case challan was being distributed, saying that the proceedings could not proceed until the law was explained. “A clear notification should have been issued by the law ministry first,” he added.

The PTI counsel also lamented that international media was not allowed to attend the hearing.

For his part, the FIA prosecutor said the law ministry’s notification was clear and the case hearing was being conducted in accordance with that.

“I have to follow the law,” the special court judge said. He highlighted that the public and media were given access to the court under Article 352 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

“All these [media persons] are here under Article 10A of the Constitution,” the defence lawyer contended, but the judge insisted that the same was the result of the implementation of Article 352.

At one point during the hearing, Imran’s lawyer Gul argued that legal requirements had not been fulfilled in the notification issued for the jail trial. Meanwhile, PTI’s Babar Awan said the proceedings could not continue until a new notification was issued.

However, Judge Zulqarnain said the IHC division bench had declared that the notification pertaining to special court judge’s appointment was correct. He further stated that these arguments would be written in today’s order of the court.

Subsequently, copies of the case record were distributed in the court.

The judge then adjourned the hearing till December 12 and said charges would be framed against the PTI leaders on the same day. The developments were confirmed to Dawn.com by media persons who were allowed to attend the proceedings.

‘PTI fully prepared for elections’

In a media talk after the hearing, Awan said the PTI and public were fully prepared for elections.

“The PTI will contest from every seat and our candidates will contest from every seat. No other party is as prepared for elections as we are,” he asserted. “The Constitution says and people believe that the way forward for Pakistan is to close these fictitious cases and trials,” the lawyer said.

Awan went on to say that people should be given the chance elect leaders of their choice. “No other way will work,” he added.

When asked about the details of today’s hearing, the lawyer said the case were merely based on “two points”.

“There is no case, this is just an attempt to stop Imran and PTI from participating in the upcoming polls,” he claimed. Awan lamented that despite registering numerous cases against the ex-premier, Imran’s house staff were still being called for testimonies.

“I have heard some more people are being prepared, but I want to tell all of them that the people of Pakistan have moved forward now,” he said, adding that he had expressed the same to Imran during their meeting today as well.

The lawyer further stated that foreign media, international observers and bloggers should be allowed to attend the cipher trial as the case had an “international dimension”.

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