ISLAMABAD: The special court, on Thursday, rejected Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and PTI’s vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s bail petitions in the cypher case.

The special court judge, Abul Hasnat Muhammad Zulqarnain, while announcing its reserved judgment dismissed Khan and Qureshi’s bail applications. According to seven pages of court verdict, first, we should not be oblivious of the fact that it is a very high top secret case.

The order says perusal of the record transpires that the accused petitioners namely, Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi and Shah Mahmood Qureshi are nominated in the first information report (FIR) with their respective specific roles. Sufficient incriminating material is available on record to connect the accused petitioners with the instant case, it said.

The verdict says that the record further depicts that there appear reasonable grounds for believing that the accused petitioners are guilty of offence under sections 5 and 9 of the Official Secret Act, 1923, in the light of the contents of the instant FIR. Moreover, there are also reasonable grounds for believing that the accused has committed non-bailable offence.

It further said that the record which is in color of various documents is sufficient for the purpose of discarding the bails of both the accused. In order to avoid any prejudicial design to the safety of the state for tentative assessment in future the restrictions during arguments will be opposed, who will be unnecessary and irrelevant persons during court proceedings.

The order says it is pertinent to mention here that despite the issuance of direction by this court on September 9, counsel on behalf of petitioners has not bothered to comply with the order of this court and no objection certificate submitted. Since it was clearly directed by this court that these bail applications would be heard but this court left no option but to decide the instant bail applications due to non-compliance of the order of this court dated September 9 as well as on merits. Hence, instant post-arrest bail petitions of both the accused petitioners, Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi and Shah Mahmood Qureshi stand dismissed.

Khan’s and Qureshi’s legal team including Barrister Salman Safdar, Shoaib Shaheen, Babar Awan, and Ali Bukhari as well as special prosecutor Rizwan Abbasi appeared before the court.

At the start of the hearing, the prosecutor requested the court to adjourn the hearing of the case till 12:30 am as some members of the prosecution are busy in the Supreme Court.

Khan’s counsel Salman Safdar said that the prosecution used different kinds of excuses during every hearing.

The judge remarked that the case would be heard in the presence of both parties. Safdar requested the court to allow him to present his arguments as we will also go to Islamabad High Court (IHC) to argue other cases. The court took a break till 10:15 am. The judge remarked that file as many applications as you want, he will decide the case today.

Khan’s lawyer Safdar, while arguing before the court after the resumption of hearing said that 180 cases were registered against Khan. The agency by misusing its authority registered the cypher case against my client, he said, adding that the agency included the name of all the accused in haste.

He further said that the complainant of cypher case is an official of the Ministry of Interior. The Ministry of Interior has hijacked the cypher case, he said, adding that the cypher had seen sent from Washington and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs received it.

Khan’s counsel further said that an allegation of personal gain as well as harming national security has been levelled in the cypher case. The name of former principal secretary to the former Prime Minister Imran Khan was mentioned in the case. Is Azam Khan present in the court? Was Azam Khan’s granted bail? he asked.

He said that the prosecution had to prove the original and fake version of cypher. The prosecution has to prove what harm had been caused by the PTI chief to national security, he said, adding that another allegation has been levelled against his client that he illegally retained cypher.

Khan’s counsel further said that the investigation of the cypher case continued for one and half years and the case was registered when his client was arrested in Toshakhana case.

What is the cypher? Indeed, it is a coded document containing the communication, the counsel said.

The judge also remarked that what is cypher? It must be discussed. The counsel further said that the cypher came to trained officers. Ordinary people cannot read it, he said.

The judge said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs receives cypher. Cypher come and where did it go? Four copies of cypher come and it includes the chief of army staff (COAS) and the prime minister, the judge said.

The counsel said that cypher’s case is a very dangerous case. Official Secrets Act, 1923, cannot be applied in this matter, he said, adding that the chairman of PTI is not a spy.

During the trial of the case, it would be ascertained whether the statement on the cypher saved the country or facilitated the anti-state elements.

Does section 5 and section 3 of the Official Secrets Act apply or not? Cypher case is all on it, the judge said, adding that if the crime is proved then section 3A will be applied. The prime minister received cyphers from the Minister of Foreign Affairs but where is the cypher, the judge asked.

Khan’s counsel further argued that the prosecution should tell us who benefited outside the country from his client’s statement regarding cypher. The FIA has twisted the law and made cypher case which is bailable, he said, adding that cypher case is framed on sharing information with powerful countries, nothing like this has happened.

He said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs received the cypher on March 7, 2022. It was the responsibility of the Prime Minister’s House to know where is the cypher, he said, it was not the responsibility of the prime minister it was the duty of his subordinates.

He asked that cypher be placed before the National Security Committee (NSC) meeting on March 31, 2022. Cypher has not been placed before the public but only some of its points shared, he said, adding that according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, cypher is present in the ministry.

Safdar said that nothing has been recovered from his client regarding the cypher case. The federal cabinet had declassified the cypher and its minutes are present on record, he said, adding that the PTI chief did not have a copy of cypher.

After the completion of Safdar’s arguments, the judge briefed special prosecutor Rizwan Abbasi regarding the case upon his arrival. The question is, where is the cypher that the former prime minister and Azam Khan received from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

The judge said that the former prime minister had shared cypher with his cabinet. Why the former prime minister was not stopped when he placed the cypher before the cabinet? the judge asked.

Awan, while arguing before the court, said that cypher is available in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs heads it. Was the cypher stolen? Has the secretary of the foreign minister made the complaint? he asked. He said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should have registered the cypher case.

He said that according to the case, the cypher had been handed over to Azam Khan but the prosecution neither nominated him nor arrested him. According to the Constitution of Pakistan, cypher has been placed before the cabinet and the NSC meeting, he said, adding that if the cypher has been stolen then why does the NSCholda second meeting on it?

Awan said that there is no mention of any evidence against Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the case. Nowhere written in the case that Qureshi misused his authority, he said.

He requested the court to grant bail to Imran Khan and Qureshi. Following the completion of the arguments of the defence counsel, the court heard the arguments of the prosecution in-camera. The court after hearing arguments reserved its verdict. Later, while announcing its verdict, court rejected the bail pleas of Khan and Qureshi.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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Parvez Sep 15, 2023 12:19pm
The way this " court " has been hurriedly constituted it lacks credibility.....looks like another Justice ( shame to use this term for him ) Dilawar affair.
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