Courtesy: Dawn News
A special court established under the Official Secrets Act on Tuesday handed both former premier Imran Khan and ex-foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi 10 years in jail in the cipher case.
The cipher case pertains to a diplomatic document that the Federal Investigation Agency’s charge sheet alleges was never returned by Imran. The PTI has long held that the document contained a threat from the United States to oust Imran as prime minister.
The verdict comes nine days before the February 8 general elections, which the PTI is contesting amid a state crackdown and without an electoral symbol.
Both Imran and Qureshi have been in jail in the run-up to the elections. While Imran’s candidature was rejected, Qureshi was cleared to run for an NA seat from Thar. But today’s conviction means that both of them have been disqualified from contesting elections for the next five years.
This is Imran’s second conviction as he was also convicted in the Toshakhana case on Aug 5, and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. The Islamabad High Court (IHC) had suspended his sentence. However, a division bench had later rejected Imran’s petition seeking the suspension of the conviction.
This is the former foreign minister’s first conviction.
Special Court Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain announced the verdict in the case. At the outset of the hearing, Imran and Qureshi were given a questionnaire under Section 342 (power to examine the accused) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
After Imran recorded his statement, the court asked him about the whereabouts of the cipher, to which he replied: “I have said the same in my statement that I do not know. The cipher was in my office.”
The judge then sentenced the two to 10 years in jail in the case. After announcing the verdict, the judge stepped out of the courtroom, at which Qureshi protested that his statement was not recorded.
In an informal conversation with reporters after the hearing, Imran alleged that former army chief Gen (rtd) Qamar Javed Bajwa “conspired” against his government for “extension”.
“Bajwa wanted another extension in November. Shehbaz Sharif had promised him an extension,” the ex-premier claimed, adding that PML-N’s Nawaz Sharif prevented the same from happening as he knew the former army chief’s men were a part of the team probing the Panama Papers case.
PTI decries ‘sham trial’, to challenge verdict in IHC
In a post on X, PTI’s official account issued a statement saying that Pakistan stood with Imran and Qureshi “who defended Pakistan and stood for haqeeqi azadi”.
“No such sham trial can change what happened in March-April 2022, on the orders of Donald Lu,” the statement added.
“A complete mockery and disregard of the law in the cipher case shall not lead us to forget our primary responsibility in order to provide justice to Imran and Qureshi.”
The statement urged the public to come out and vote on February 8.
“God willing kaptaan and vice kaptaan will be back soon, and this sentence will be (thrown) in the dustbin in the appeal stage,” it concluded.