ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Imran Khan has bashed his arch-rival Nawaz Sharif, claiming that the PML-N supremo “cannot tolerate honest judges in the superior judiciary”.

Speaking to reporters in Adiala Jail on Thursday, the PTI founding chairman claimed that the honest and upright judges “are not acceptable to the PML-N, and Mr Sharif never played a match without his handpicked umpires”. He also termed the resignation of Supreme Court judge Ijazul Ahsan “a great loss”.

Mr Khan claimed that Pakistan would have been stabilised by now if the elections were held in October last year. He said that the elections were delayed to “crush the PTI, but the spoilers failed to dismantle the political party”.

Amid differences between the PTI leaders over the award of election tickets, he said he had assigned the task to Omar Ayub and Shibli Faraz as he was not allowed to deliberate upon the tickets and got little input about the candidates.

As tensions escalate with Iran in the wake of retaliatory strikes, Imran Khan criticised the caretaker as well as PDM governments for their “failed foreign policy” and termed the escalation with Tehran “dangerous”.

Iran, Afghanistan

He condemned the strikes by Iran in Balochistan and said there was a “need for introspection”. He said: “Being the prime minister, I personally visited Iran and held a meeting with the [Iranian] supreme leader [to improve ties with the country].” The PTI leader said that those who wanted to spoil Pakistan’s relations with Iran would be happy after the recent escalation.

Ex-PM condemns Iranian strikes, criticises caretaker, PDM govts for ‘failed foreign policy’

In a comment on ties with Afghanistan, the former premier said Pakistan cannot defeat terrorism without the support of Afghanistan, but the government “is thinking of closing the Afghan border now”. He said the former foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari never even went to Kabul amid deteriorating ties with the neighbouring country. He also took India’s ruling party, BJP, to task over its adverse policy against Pakistan.

Azam records statement

Meanwhile, a special court seized with the cipher case recorded the statement of five witnesses, including former principal secretary Azam Khan.

Judge Abual Hasnat Mohammad Zulqarnain recorded the statements of Azam Khan, Aneesur Rehman, Javed Iqbal, Hidayatullah, and Mohammad Ashfaq. Mr Khan demanded that Azam Khan must swear an oath on the Holy Quran before recording the statement.

His legal team also filed a written application in this regard, which irked the judge who remarked that as Muslims “we recite the Holy Quran and follow its teaching”.

Subsequently, Azam Khan testified after taking oath on the Holy Quran. He said that the secretary of foreign affairs informed him about the cipher, but the former foreign minister had informed the PM about the diplomatic cable before he could relay the information to the premier.

He said that the then PM told him that he had already discussed the issue with Mr Qureshi. According to Azam Khan, the ci­­pher contained information about the meet­­ings of Pakistani’s ambassador to the US.

According to Azam Khan, Mr Khan termed the issue the interference by the US in the internal affairs of Pakistan and decided to make the diplomatic cable public.

“I asked him to hold a formal meeting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Azam Khan claimed, adding that Mr Khan got hold of the copy which was never found.

He testified that the foreign secretary read out the cipher from “the master copy in a meeting held at Banigala” and it was decided to take the matter to the federal cabinet. He said the matter was subsequently taken to the National Security Committee, after which it was decided to issue a demarche to the United States.

Azam Khan claimed that the cipher never returned to his office and he had intimated the prime minister, his military secretary as well as the relevant staff numerous times. The judge adjourned the hearing till Jan 22.

Plea against jail trial

A division bench of the Islamabad High Court comprising Miangul Hassan Aurang­zeb and Justice Arbab Tahir sought a resp­onse from the NAB and the interior secretary on Imran Khan’s petitions against jail trial in the Toshakhana and Al-Qadir Trust cases.

Mr Khan’s counsel Sardar Latif Khan Khosa argued that the NAB filed the Toshakhana case in the accountability court on Nov 20 and the prison trial notification was issued a month before the filing of the reference, which showed the mala fide intent of the government.

At this, Justice Aurangzeb inquired about the delay in the filing of the petition. The counsel replied that Mr Khan learnt about the reference after summons were issued to him. Mr Khosa further claimed the judge was appointed on deputation and was about to retire. The judge was holding hearings daily to settle the trial, he said.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2024

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