ISLAMABAD: A counsel for PTI founder Imran Khan has said that former principal secretary Azam Khan’s statement before the trial court was different from the one recorded during the investigation in the cipher case.

Mr Azam, who was Mr Khan’s secretary when the latter was the prime minister, is the prosecution’s prime witness in the case.

On Tuesday, an Islamabad High Court (IHC) division bench, comprising Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, resumed the hearing of appeals filed by the ex-PM Khan and former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi against their conviction by in the cipher case.

During the hearing, the court was told that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had appointed senior lawyers Hamid Ali Shah and Zulfiqar Abbas Naqvi as special prosecutors in this case.

Says ex-bureaucrat’s testimony before magistrate is different from that in court

At the outset, advocate Shah sought time to prepare arguments, but the bench turned down the request.

The bench was of the view that since the case pertains to a special law, the court deemed it appropriate to hear every detail and suggested the prosecutor take note as well.

Mr Khan’s counsel, Barrister Salman Safdar, argued that the FIA registered the case under the Official Secrets Act on flimsy grounds.

He informed the court that Mr Azam, who could be an accused in this case, was allegedly picked up and appeared after a gap of one month with a statement recorded under section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

The said section pertains to recording statements of a witness before a magistrate.

Mr Safdar pointed out that the ex-secretary’s statement recorded after his re-appearance was different from his testimony recorded before the trial court.

At this, Justice Aurangzeb inquired as to whether the defence counsel was allowed to cross-examine the witness.

Barrister Safdar replied that the defence counsel were not allowed to cross-examine the witness since the trial court appointed two state prosecutors who quizzed Mr Azam.

The two state counsels cross-examined 21 witnesses in a short span of time.

The judge then asked if the state pro-secutors were appointed through a judicial order, to which Barrister Safdar replied in affirmative.

He added that the judge appointed state counsel since the defence lawyer, Sikandar Zulqarnain, was not available for a day due to his dental treatment, and the other counsel was busy in his election campaign.

He pointed out anomalies at the very beginning of the trial and said that defence counsel were not even aware of Mr Khan’s remand granted to the FIA in August last year.

The court then adjourned further hearing in this matter till March 11.

The same bench also adjourned the hearing of Mr Khan and his spouse’s appeal against the conviction in the Toshakhana reference.The hearing was adjourned since the record requisitioned in the previous hearing was not produced.

Published in Dawn, March 6th, 2024

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