Supreme Court judge recuses himself from hearing on cipher probe

ISLAMABAD: Justice Sardar Tariq Masood has recused himself from an in-chamber hearing on appeals against the Registrar Office’s objections on petitions seeking an investigation into a cipher presented by former prime minister Imran Khan as evidence of a “foreign conspiracy” to oust him.

The hearing, which was scheduled for Tuesday, was set to review petitions filed by Zulfiqar Ahmed Bhutta, Syed Tariq Badar and Naeem ul-Hasan last year, calling for the formation of a “high-powered commission” to probe the alleged “foreign conspiracy.”

The petitions had named the federation of Pakistan through the law and justice secretary, the prime minister, and the cabinet secretary as respondents in the case.

However, the applications were earlier returned over objections by the Registrar’s Office and were subsequently challenged by the petitioners.

During the hearing, Justice Masood decided to recuse himself and sent the petitions back to the top judge for further investigation.

In a dramatic turn of events, Khan claimed at a rally in March of last year that he had evidence of a “foreign conspiracy” to oust his government. He brandished a letter, the contents of which he had previously kept secret, but later alleged that the United States was behind the conspiracy.

Khan’s accusations were based on a cipher received from Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Asad Majeed Khan, in which the envoy reported a meeting with Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Affairs Donald Lu.

The letter reportedly contained a warning that Khan’s continuation in office, which was set to face a vote of no confidence, would have repercussions on bilateral relations.

Washington denied the accusations, and the National Security Committee (NSC) of Pakistan, which includes military and intelligence leaders, issued a “strong demarche” to an unnamed country over what it deemed “blatant interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan.”

However, at a later meeting, the NSC stated it found no evidence of a foreign conspiracy.

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