ISLAMABAD: The Special Court (Official Secrets Act) on Wed­nesday indicted former prime minister Imran Khan and former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in the cipher case, sources told Dawn.

Only four members of the press corps were allowed to cover Wednes­day’s proceedings inside Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail.

Mr Khan’s legal team, however, disputed the impression, with Barrister Salman Safdar telling reporters after the trial that the court did not indict the two PTI leaders as none of them had signed any document.

But sources in the prosecution told Dawn that since the judge had told the accused persons about the charges, the process of indictment has been completed.

Sources said the charge-sheet accused Mr Khan of waving a confidential document before a crowd on March 27, 2022. It also accused Mr Khan and Mr Qureshi of using cipher for vested interests and jeopardising national security and relations of Pakistan with another country.

Mr Qureshi claimed the cipher was not sent to him when he was foreign minister, the sources said, adding that he learnt about this diplomatic cable through the then ambassador to the US Asad Majeed.

‘Role of Bajwa, Lu’

During Wednesday’s proceedings, Mr Khan asked the judge to frame charges against then-army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and US diplomate Donald Lu for “hatching a conspiracy to topple his government”. The judge reminded him to watch his words as he was addressing the court, sources said.

The families of Mr Khan and Mr Qureshi, as well as their legal teams, were present in the makeshift courtroom at Adiala jail when Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain read out three charges against them. Both PTI leaders pleaded not guilty.

Sources in the prosecution confirmed the indictment, mentioning that five prosecution witnesses have been summoned to record their testimony on Thursday (today).

Mr Qureshi’s daughter Meher Bano said in a tweet she was “amazed by the prosecution’s claim” that charges had been framed against Imran and her father. “I was present in court and neither I nor the lawyers present witnessed any formal framing of charges. If this was indeed an OPEN TRIAL there would be no such confusion,” she said.

PTI lawyer Sardar Latif Khosa said media persons and family members could not even hear the details of court proceedings from where they were seated, questioning why they were even allowed to attend then, according to Dawn.com.

Process of indictment

Talking to Dawn, Raja Inam Ameen Minhas, a prosecutor with the Anti-Narcotics Force, explained the process of indictment.

He said that the framing of the charge, or indictment, was not a conviction, rather it indicated the start of the formal trial against the accused.

A judge reads out the allegations against the accused person(s) in his presence and usually obtains their signature on the charge sheet.

However, if a suspect refuses to sign, the judge can write in the charge sheet that the charge was read out in the presence of the accused, but he refused to sign. In such a case, the prosecutor said, the statement of the judge would be treated as true.

NAB arrests Imran in Toshakhana case

In a related development, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) took Mr Khan into custody after an accountability court of Islamabad rejected his post-arrest bail plea in a reference for misuse of authority to acquire Toshakhana gifts.

Judge Mohammad Bashir observed that prima facie, Mr Khan took the gifts from Toshakhana in violation of rules.

While NAB arrested him in this case, sources said the prosecution would move an application on Thursday (today) seeking custody of the ex-premier on physical remand.

Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2023

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