Pak court adjourns hearing of cipher case against Imran Khan, Qureshi till Dec 4

The case is based on allegations that ex-PM Imran Khan and ex-foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi violated the secrecy laws while handling a communication sent by the embassy in Washington in 2022

Pakistan ex-PM Imran Khan (photo: DW)
Pakistan ex-PM Imran Khan (photo: DW)


A Pakistan court hearing a case against jailed former prime minister Imran Khan and ex-foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi for allegedly leaking a diplomatic cable on Saturday adjourned the hearing till Monday after marking the presence of the two accused.

Special court Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqernain presided over the hearing held in the Adiala Jail Rawalpindi where the two leaders have been incarcerated. The case is based on allegations that the two violated the secret laws of the country while handling a communication sent by the embassy in Washington in March 2022.

During the hearing, Qureshi asked the court to summon President Arif Alvi so that he could testify before the court whether he had assented to changes in the Official Secrets Act, 1923.

Terming the case as baseless, Qureshi recalled that President Alvi had said he did not give assent to the bills amending the Official Secrets Act.

"He should swear in court whether he has assented to these amendments or not," Qureshi stated.

In August, Alvi had denied approving changes to the Official Secrets Act - under which the cipher trial is being held.

Responding to Qureshi, the judge said: "No section of the law amended by Arif Alvi will apply to you. Your trial will be held according to sections 5 and 9 of the Official Secrets Act. We will conduct the proceedings on merit."

Sections 5 and 9 of the Official Secrets Act specifically address penalties for unauthorised access to confidential information. Section 5 imposes imprisonment of up to three years, while Section 9 imposes imprisonment for up to 10 years, along with a fine.

The in-prison hearing of Khan, 71, and Qureshi, 67, began from the start after a ruling by the Islamabad High Court last month declared the jail trial illegal on procedural grounds and also nullified its proceedings.

The hearing of the cipher case was again shifted to jail after the order by the trial judge, followed by its approval by the cabinet and notifications issued by the ministry of law and justice as required under the law.

Judge Zulqernain on Friday had ordered to allow media persons and relatives of the accused to witness the proceedings but there were reports that only three journalists were allowed to enter the courtroom inside the jail while many others kept waiting at the gate of the Adiala jail.

However, Khan's wife Bushra Bibi, his sisters and a daughter and a son of Qureshi were present in the courtroom during the hearing.

After a brief hearing, the court adjourned the proceedings until December 4.

Meanwhile, Geo News reported that Khan during the hearing claimed that "powerful people" behind the cipher case were being protected. "I had ordered to initiate an inquiry into the matter when I was the prime minister," he said.

The former Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief also said that he and his other party leaders were locked inside jails "like goats", while Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Nawaz Sharif was brought back to Pakistan.

Khan's lawyer Intazar Hussain Panjutha told media outside Adiala jail that the hearing was not in accordance with the open trial as ruled by the high court.

"The media representatives present in the jail said that they do not represent all the media. Today's hearing violated the high court's orders as Imran Khan's lawyers did not have internal access," he said.

Qureshi's son Zain said the security concerns were just an excuse to not produce his father before the court. "All local and international media representatives were present but they were not allowed inside the jail," he said.

Zulfikar Abbas Naqvi, the prosecutor representing the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), said Saturday's proceedings were only to the extent of marking the suspects' attendance.

When asked about the journalists not being allowed to witness proceedings, Naqvi said the judge was "reviewing the matter himself".

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