• Babar Awan says former PM has requested court to summon ‘ex-army chief and US diplomat’
• LHC bench ‘unavailable’ to hear PTI leader’s appeal concerning May 9 cases

ISLAMABAD: A special court seized with the cipher trial of former prime minister Imran Khan has decided to indict him and his aide Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Dec 12 for alleged breach of the official secrets law, whereas the PTI leader has requested the judge to summon the former army chief and a US diplomat to record their statements in connection with the case.

This was also confirmed by Mr Khan’s lawyer Babar Awan in a conversation with reporters outside the Adiala Jail. “Imran Khan has said that a US embassy representative should also be summoned [by the court] and he also took the name of a former general,” Mr Awan said. Though no names were mentioned, Imran Khan was ostensibly referring to retired general Qamar Javed Bajwa and US State Department official Donald Lu — whom the PTI leader blames for his ouster.

During the proceedings on Monday at Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, only six reporters were present to cover the trial.

As the trial resumed, Judge Abul Hasnat Zulqarnain directed the prosecution to distribute copies of the challan and other relevant records to the defence counsels and adjourned the hearing till December 12. The court will indict Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi for “revealing the contents of classified diplomatic cable” to the general public.

Imran Khan’s spouse Bushra Bibi, his sisters, and the son and daughter of Shah Mehmood Qureshi witnessed the proceedings. Special prosecutors of the Federal Investigation Agen­­cy (FIA) Zulfiqar Abbas Naqvi and Raja Rizwan Abbasi, and Mr Khan’s counsel Babar Awan and others were also present.

Talking to media persons in the court, the PTI leader reiterated his stance that the cipher proved that a conspiracy was hatched to topple his regime.

Speaking to reporters outside the prison, Mr Khan’s counsel Babar Awan said the former prime minister wanted the court to summon the former COAS and a US diplomat. He said that PTI would contest polls on every seat and claimed that other political parties were not ready to contest the elections.

He further said that foreign media, international observers and vloggers should be allowed to attend the cipher trial as the case had an international dimension to it.

‘LHC bench not available’

On the other hand, the hearing of petitions lodged by Imran Khan challenging the dismissal of his pre-arrest bail in seven cases regarding the May 9 riots could not be held due to the unavailability of a two-judge bench of the Lahore High Court. The petitions were fixed before the bench comprising Justice Aalia Neelum and Justice Muhammad Waheed Khan. However, the cause list of the bench was cancelled due to the unavailability of the judges.

Last week, the bench had allowed an application by Imran Khan for an early hearing and directed the registrar’s office to fix the hearing of the petitions. An anti-terrorism court on August 11 dismissed the pre-arrest bail of the former PTI chairman in these cases over non-appearance.

The former prime minister pleaded in the petitions that the trial court dismissed the bail on technical grounds based on the circumstances not in his control as he had been imprisoned in the Toshakhana case. He asked the court to set aside the trial court’s order and direct it to decide the bail petition on merits

The cases include attacks on the Lahore corps commander’s residence, Askari Tower in Gulberg, Shadman police station, the party office of PML-N in Model Town and the torching of a container at Kalma Chowk.

Wajih Ahmad Sheikh in Lahore also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2023

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