Qureshi sent on 14-day judicial remand in cipher case

PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi talks with journalists after a hearing outside the Supreme Court building in Islamabad on April 7, 2022. — Online
PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi talks with journalists after a hearing outside the Supreme Court building in Islamabad on April 7, 2022. — Online

ISLAMABAD: A special court formed to hear cases under the Official Secrets Act on Wednesday sent former foreign minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s on a 14-day judicial remand in cipher case.

Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) produced the former foreign minister before the special court after the completion of his two-day physical remand today.

Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) Judge Abul Hasnat Zulqarnain, who has been given additional charge of the special court, conducted the hearing on the case.

During the hearing, FIA’s special prosecutor implored the court to extend physical remand saying they needed to recover Qureshi’s mobile phone and the diplomatic cable.

Expressing displeasure over repeated pleas for an extension, Judge Zulqarnain rejected the request.

Qureshi was arrested earlier this month by the FIA’s Counter Terrorism Wing (CTW) after a case was lodged against him on the complaint of Interior Secretary Yousaf Naseem Khokhar under Sections 5 and 9 of Official Secrets Act 1923 r/w 34 PP.

“Consequent upon the conclusion of the enquiry No. 111/2023 dated 05.10.2022, registered in the CTW, FIA Islamabad, it transpired that former prime minister namely Imran Ahmad Khan Niazi, former foreign minister namely Shah Mahmood Qureshi and their other associates are involved in communications of information contained in secret classified document (Cipher Telegram received from Parep. Washington dated 7th March, 2022 to Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to the unauthorised person (i.e. public at large) by twisting the facts to achieve their ulterior motives and personal gains in a manner prejudicial to the interests of state security,” the FIR stated.

Earlier today, ahead of Qureshi’s hearing, Judge Zulqarnain extended PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s judicial remand till September 13 in the cipher case.

Hearing of the case took place at the Attock District Jail following approval by the Law Ministry amid security concerns expressed by the Interior Ministry.

Khan has been imprisoned in jail since his conviction in the Toshakhana case on August 5 for failing to properly declare gifts he received while in office.

Cable gate

The controversy first emerged on March 27, 2022, when Imran — less than a month before his ouster — brandished a letter, claiming that it was a cypher from a foreign nation, which mentioned that his government should be removed from power.

He did not reveal the contents of the letter nor mention the name of the nation that had sent it. But a few days later, he named the United States and said that Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Affairs Donald Lu had sought his removal.

The cypher was about former Pakistan ambassador to the US Asad Majeed’s meeting with Lu.

The former prime minister, claiming that he was reading contents from the cypher, said that “all will be forgiven for Pakistan if Imran Khan is removed from power”.

Then on March 31, the National Security Committee (NSC) took up the matter and decided to issue a “strong demarche” to the country for its “blatant interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan”.

Later, after his removal, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif convened a meeting of the NSC, which came to the conclusion that it had found no evidence of a foreign conspiracy in the cypher.

In the two audio leaks that took the internet by storm and shocked the public after these events, the former prime minister, then-federal minister Asad Umar, and then-principle secretary Azam could allegedly be heard discussing the US cypher and how to use it in their interest.

On September 30, the federal cabinet took notice of the matter and constituted a committee to probe the contents of the audio leaks.

In October, the cabinet gave the green signal to initiate action against the former prime minister and handed over the case to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

Once FIA was given the task to probe the matter, it summoned Khan, Umar, and other leaders of the party, but the PTI chief challenged the summons and secured a stay order from the court.

The Lahore High Court, in July this year, recalled the stay order against the call-up notice to Khan by the FIA.


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