ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has fixed for hearing the post-arrest bail plea filed by PTI Chairman Imran Khan in the Cypher case, in which he is currently incarcerated at the Attock jail, it emerged on Saturday.
The court will take up the petition on Sep 25 (Monday), and IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq will preside over the proceedings. The court has issued a notice to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to present arguments in the case.
Imran had approached the IHC after the special court — established to hear cases filed under the Official Secrets Act — rejected the ex-premier’s plea seeking the same.
The cipher case pertains to a diplomatic document, Cypher, which reportedly went missing from Imran’s possession. The PTI alleges that it contained a threat from the United States to oust Imran Khan from power.
Imran Khan and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had been attending hearings in the case, while PTI leader Asad Umar’s and former principal secretary Azam Khan’s involvement was supposed to be determined during the course of the investigation.
While Umar was granted pre-arrest bail last week, Imran and Qureshi were denied post-arrest bail, and their judicial remand — which was extended — will complete on September 26.
Imran had on Sep 16 filed the petition through his lawyer Barrister Salman Safdar.
The state and Interior Ministry Secretary Yousuf Naseem Khokar are respondents in the case.
The petition urged the IHC to grant Imran post-arrest bail till the final disposal of the cypher case “to meet the ends of justice”.
The plea claimed that nearly 200 criminal cases have been filed against the former premier, out of which “almost 40 cases are [on] charges of corruption, murder, sedition, mutiny, foreign funding, NAB (National Accountability Bureau) reference and Toshakhana reference”.
It argued that the PTI chief could not avail remedy under section 498 (power to direct admission to bail or reduction of bail) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
The petition alleged that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) operated at the behest of the then interior ministry. It added that the matter of the case not being registered by the foreign ministry had gone unnoticed by Special Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain.
“Never before, history has witnessed the ‘arrest’ and ‘prosecution’ of a former prime minister (Imran) and a former foreign minister (Qureshi) under this law (Secrets Act),” the plea stated.
It went on to cite past verdicts to argue that “straightaway arrests have been condemned in landmark authoritative judgments”. The petition asserts that the Secrets Act was “originally enacted to hold members of the armed forces (air, navy, army) accountable for violations and breaches of the law”.
It contended that neither section 5 (wrongful communication, etc of information) nor section 9 (attempts, incitements, etc) of the Official Secrets Act were applicable in the cipher case, and neither does the law have “any remote relevance to the allegations detailed in the FIR”.
The petition further stated that former interior minister Rana Sanaullah and the FIA have made “contradictory statements”, according to which, the “original cipher document is securely held in the custody of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs”.
“The petitioner’s primary concern was to prevent foreign interference in domestic political affairs,” it said.
The plea went on to allege, “This is another like attempt, made by the state functionaries, to secure the straightway arrest of the petitioner after suspension of his sentence in Toshakhana reference.”.
It further said that the respondents’ acts depict “clear malafide, hostility, and vindictive motives to harm the petitioner in his office, career, person, reputation, and dignity”.
The plea stated that the petitioner was ready to furnish reasonable surety to the entire satisfaction of the court and also undertook “not to abscond or tamper with the prosecution witnesses”.
Asserting that the PTI chief is “one of the few honest and dignified statesmen of Pakistan”, the petition recalled Imran’s cricket career and philanthropic contributions.
It went on to contend that his “mandate and growing popularity it got from the masses became a threat to the already well-established political forces”. The plea added that state machinery was being misused with the sole objective of “political victimisation and score-settling”.
The Cypher case
According to the FIR, a case has been registered against former prime minister Imran Khan and Qureshi under sections 5 and 9 of the Official Secrets Act, 1923, read with Section 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
They have been accused of wrongful communication/use of official secret information and illegal retention of a cypher telegram (an official secret document) with malafide intention, whereas the roles of former SPM Muhammad Azam Khan, former federal minister Asad Umar, and other involved associates will be ascertained during the course of the investigations.
It said former PM Imran, former FM Qureshi and their other associates are involved in communication of information contained in secret classified document (cypher telegram received from Parep Washington dated March 7, 2022 to the Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to the unauthorised persons (i.e. public at large) by twisting facts to achieve their ulterior motives and personal gains in a manner prejudicial to the interests of state security.
They held a clandestine meeting at Banigala on March 28, 2022 to conspire to misuse the contents of the cipher in order to accomplish their nefarious designs.
The accused, Imran, with malafide, directed the former principal secretary, Azam Khan, to prepare the minutes of said clandestine meeting by manipulating the contents of the cipher message to use it for his vested interest at the cost of national safety.
Moreover, the numbered and accountable copy of the cipher telegram sent to the PM Office was deliberately kept by the former PM, with malafide intention, and was never returned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The said cipher telegram (official secret document classified as such) is still in the illegal possession/retention of the accused Imran, the FIR claimed.