A special court established under the Official Secrets Act has extended the judicial remand of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and the party’s Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi until September 26 in the cipher case.
Imran Khan has been in jail since his conviction in the Toshakhana case on August 5, where he was found guilty of failing to properly declare gifts received while in office. Although the Islamabad High Court (IHC) overturned a lower court’s decision to imprison him for three years with a fine of Rs100,000, thus barring him from upcoming elections, he remains incarcerated due to his arrest in the cipher case.
Last month, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officially arrested the former prime minister and the former foreign minister in connection with the cipher case, charging them under the Official Secrets Act.
During the recent hearing, Judge Zulqarnain instructed the FIA to submit a challan (formal charge sheet) on September 26 in the cipher case.
Shah Mahmood Qureshi was arrested in the same case on August 19, while Imran Khan was apprehended while serving his sentence in Attock jail.
The first information report (FIR) filed against the PTI leaders states that they were involved in disseminating information contained in a classified document (Cipher Telegram received from Parep. Washington dated March 7, 2022, to the Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to unauthorized individuals, manipulating facts for personal gain and ulterior motives detrimental to state security.
The Law Ministry established the special court under the Official Secrets Act to oversee the cipher case proceedings, with Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) Judge Zulqarnain appointed to preside over it.
In a statement to the media outside the court, Shah Mahmood Qureshi asserted his party’s loyalty to the country and emphasized that he has never betrayed Pakistan and would willingly face punishment if proven otherwise. He reiterated his commitment to defending institutions during his tenure as foreign minister and stated that there is no ambiguity regarding Imran Khan’s position as PTI chief.
Qureshi also highlighted the economic and constitutional challenges facing Pakistan, calling for transparent elections in the country.
He denied any involvement in the May 9 riots, explaining that he was caring for his ailing wife during that time.
The cipher case initially surfaced in March 2022 when Imran Khan, shortly before his removal from office in April 2022, claimed to possess a cipher letter from a foreign nation suggesting that his government should be ousted. He later identified the United States as the sender of the cipher, linking Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Affairs Donald Lu to the alleged interference. The controversy escalated when Azam Khan, Imran Khan’s principal secretary, confessed that the cipher had been used for political purposes and to divert attention from a vote of no-confidence.
The case remains a significant legal and political issue, with Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi facing judicial proceedings related to the cipher’s alleged misuse.