Imran Khan grilled in missing cypher case
The former Pak PM reportedly 'admitted' to misplacing a confidential diplomatic cable while he was interrogated by Pakistan's top investigative agency
Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan, 70, is currently serving a three-year term in Attock Jail after he was sentenced by a court in a corruption case earlier this month.
The diplomatic cable in question was the same document Khan had for long mentioned as evidence of a US-backed conspiracy to remove him from the prime minister's seat last year.
Khan had waved a document at a rally days before his ouster as prime minister in April (2022), saying it was proof of a foreign conspiracy.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman's interrogation in the matter comes days after he was booked under the Official Secrets Act for making the content of a confidential diplomatic cable from the country's embassy in the US public.
The counter-terrorism wing (CTW) of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) of Pakistan on 26 August visited the former prime minister in jail, national media reports said.
FIA sources said a six-member joint investigation team, led by FIA deputy director Ayaz Khan, met Khan in the office of the Attock Jail's deputy superintendent and interrogated him for over an hour, the Dawn newspaper reported.
Under interrogation, Khan said he had lost the cypher and couldn't recall where he had kept it, the News newspaper reported.
Khan also denied that the paper he waved as proof of the conspiracy at a public gathering last year, days before the ouster of his government, was the diplomatic cable in question.
"The paper I gestured in the public were cabinet meeting minutes and not the cypher," the paper quoted Khan as saying.
The investigation agency had registered a case against Khan and PTI vice-chairman and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi after ascertaining their 'deliberate involvement' in misusing the cypher and its misplacement following a probe.
The FIR also stated that the role of the former prime minister's principal secretary Azam Khan, ex-planning minister Asad Umar and other associates involved would be determined during the investigation.
Qureshi, a close aide of Khan, was arrested by police from his home on August 19 and during Saturday's interrogation, Khan was questioned about the former's revelations.
Citing the cypher, Khan has been alleging that the US was hatching a conspiracy to topple his government. The US has time and again denied such allegations, terming them "categorically false".
The purported cypher contained an account of a meeting between US state department officials, including assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu and then Pakistani envoy Asad Majeed Khan.
Cricketer-turned-politician Khan had come under increased scrutiny following the publication of a purported copy of the secret cable by the US media outlet the Intercept, with many in the previous government led by Shehbaz Sharif pointing fingers at the PTI chief for being the source of the leak.
Former interior minister Rana Sanaullah has said that if Khan had indeed lost the copy of the cypher provided to him, it would constitute a crime under the Official Secrets Act.
Citing the cypher, the Intercept in a report published earlier this month said, 'The U.S. State Department encouraged the Pakistani government in a March 7, 2022, meeting to remove Imran Khan as prime minister over his neutrality on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.'
The publication, however, also stated that it had made extensive efforts to authenticate the document, but "given the security climate in Pakistan, independent confirmation from sources in the Pakistani government was not possible". The US state department had also said it could not verify the authenticity of the document.
The cypher case against Khan became serious after his principal secretary, Azam Khan, stated before a magistrate and the FIA that the former premier had used the U.S. cypher for his political gains' and to avert a no-confidence vote against him last year.
On August 5, Imran was arrested and sent to Attock Jail after a trial court found him guilty in the Toshakhana corruption case.
Additional sessions judge Humayun Dilawar also disqualified the PTI chief politically for five years, apparently ending his prospects of taking part in the upcoming general elections, dates for which have not been fixed yet.
Dozens of cases have been launched against Khan since his removal from office last year. It is believed that he may be arrested by the FIA in the cypher case if his sentence in the Toshakhana case is suspended.