ISLAMABAD: In a bold move, the flamboyant jailed ex-prime minister Imran Khan on Monday categorically said that he would “drag” former army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa as well as the US embassy officials through the courts in the cypher case.
In an informal conversation with journalists inside Adiala jail during the hearing of the cypher case, he said: “I will include General Bajwa and US embassy officials as witnesses in the case”.
“General Bajwa did everything on Donald Lu’s directives,” maintained a confident Khan. A special court established under the Official Secrets Act 2023 held an open court hearing in Adiala jail where Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi are incarcerated.
Family members and lawyers of the incarcerated PTI leaders were in attendance along with special prosecutor Zulfikar Abbas Naqvi and Rizwan Abbasi.
At the outset, the judge expressed displeasure at PTI lawyer Usman Gul for not arriving in court on time. “The next hearing should begin on time and witnesses be produced in court,” he directed, adding that both sides should mutually decide a time.
Judge Zulqarnain then instructed the parties to check if all the documents in the case record were present so that the same could be distributed.
Here, the PTI lawyer inquired about the law under which the case Challan was being distributed, saying the proceedings could not proceed until the law was explained. “A clear notification should have been issued by the Law Ministry first,” he added.
The PTI counsel also lamented that international media was not allowed to attend the hearing.
For his part, the FIA prosecutor said the Law Ministry’s notification was clear and the case hearing was being conducted in accordance with that. “I have to follow the law,” the special court judge said. He highlighted that the public and media were given access to the court under Article 352 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
“All these [media persons] are here under Article 10A of the Constitution,” the defence lawyer contended, but the judge insisted that the same was the result of the implementation of Article 352.
At one point during the hearing, Imran’s lawyer Gul argued that legal requirements had not been fulfilled in the notification issued for the jail trial. Meanwhile, PTI’s Babar Awan said the proceedings could not continue until a new notification was issued.
However, Judge Zulqarnain said the IHC division bench had declared that the notification pertaining to special court judge’s appointment was correct. He further stated that these arguments would be written in today’s order of the court. Subsequently, copies of the case record were distributed in the court.
The judge then adjourned the hearing till December 12 and said charges would be framed against the PTI leaders on the same day.
Talking to journalists, the former prime minister predicted that his party would clinch the February 2024 election with a thumping majority, adding that he was arrested under a plan.
Khan said he was thankful to those PTI leaders jumping ship as time proved who is loyal to the party and who is not. About the reports of any talks with powers that be, Khan plainly rejected the reports that he held negotiations in jail. About having issues in jail, he said he did not face any problems in jail, as living in jail is like “worshipping” for him. Khan also spoke about the allegations put forward against him by Khawar Maneka — the former husband of his wife Bushra Bibi. He stated that he saw his wife’s face for the first time after their Nikkah.
He also claimed that Bushra’s sons were being pressurised to give a statement against their mother.
Meanwhile, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the co-accused in the cypher case, said the PTI was in his heart and no one could take it out of there. “I do not need any post in PTI anymore,” said Qureshi while talking to journalists.
The special court, hearing the cypher case, has set December 12 as the date of indictment for Khan and Qureshi. The indictment date was set by Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain after both the suspects were provided with the case record during the hearing held in the Adiala jail.
During the hearing, PTI lawyers urged the court not to hand over the record, while the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA)‘s special prosecutor asked the court to go ahead. It was the second open court hearing after the judge decided to hold the trial in jail due to serious security risks brought to light by the prison’s superintendent.
The federal cabinet last week had also approved the summary to hold the jail trial of Khan and Qureshi in the cipher case after it was moved by the Law and Justice Ministry.
The court had also stated that the proceedings can be attended by anyone who wishes to do so including the journalists. But despite the orders, only seven journalists – a majority of them belong to some unknown publications and television channels – were allowed to attend the hearing by the jail authorities. The irony is that not a single international media representative was allowed to witness the proceedings.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023