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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court issued notices to the federal government and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on former prime minister Imran Khan’s appeal in the missing cypher case.

A three-member bench, headed by Justice Tariq Masood, and comprising Justice Yahya Afridi, and Justice Ayesha A Malik, on Wednesday, heard the post-arrest bail application of ex-PM and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan.

The former prime minister has challenged the order of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) where his post-arrest bail was declined. A single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice Aamer Farooq, on October 27, rejected Imran’s both petitions seeking post-arrest bail and the quashment of the case.

The IHC chief justice noted in his written order that the petition for quashing of FIR as well as bail application are without merit and are accordingly dismissed.

The apex court declined Imran’s counsel’s request to give a fixed date for hearing the case next. Barrister Salman Safdar, representing Imran Khan, requested the bench to give a fixed date as the case was adjourned for an indefinite period.

However, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood told him; “Don’t make it a special case, and let it be a simple case.” The judge stated the notices have been issued, adding without issuing notice the bail cannot be granted.

Safdar contended that the Ministry of Interior is not competent to file a case against the ex-PM while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which actually handles, “cypher telegram” should have filed the case. He said “the prosecution has not provided us with the relevant documents,” adding the prosecution had failed to make out any case against Imran Khan.

Justice Tariq Masood told the counsel that “your clients opened the cypher code, which is a secret one.” He said “though the cypher code does remain the same, but it is changed repeatedly.”

He argued that “according to the contents of the FIR his client’s case at best falls on the later part of the Official Secrets Act, 1923, wherein, the sentence is two years, and which under Section 12(b) of the Act is bailable.”

He submitted that the cypher was furnished in the first meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC), and thereafter, the protest was made with the USA Embassy in Islamabad. He further stated that in the second NSC meeting, which was held on 24-04-22 after the removal of Imran Khan’s government there was no allegation of the cypher missing. He said had the cypher was missing on 24-04-22 then it should have been mentioned in the meeting.

Justice Afridi inquired from the counsel, “Is the offence mentioned in the FIR losing the cypher?” The offence mentioned in it was communication, he added. He said a meeting was held in Bani Gala where there were certain people present and the accused discussed with them the cypher. Justice Masood asked was waving the document not communication?

Salman Safdar further argued that Azam Khan who was the Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Imran Khan was the in-charge of the PM Office when the cypher was received. He submitted that he was earlier the accused in this case, but after his statement under Section 161 of CrPC, he was made prosecution witness. It was the statement of a co-accused. Justice Afridi remarked Azam Khan was directed in the meeting to prepare the minutes.

After the delay of seven months, the FIR was registered and that too after the removal of Imran Khan indicates the mala fide on the part of the Ministry of Interior as no one came forward regarding the missing of cypher from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Justice Ayesha said that when the cypher was shared with the various departments, then what is the purpose of the recovery of the cypher from the accused.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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