After a trial held exclusively within the premises of first Attock and then Adiala Jail, Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi were formally charged with leaking the official secret document called ‘cipher’, registered under the Official Secrets Act.
The two-page charge sheet says that Imran Khan ‘illegally retained and wrongly communicated’ the cipher, a secret document, while he was a prime minister. It accuses him of revealing the contents of the secret document in a public rally for his own interest and compromising Pakistan’s communication system.
It also says that Imran Khan illegally retained the cipher in his possession.
Now that Khan, and his then Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, have been charged and their guilt will be ascertained, it is worth looking at what is in store for them in case they are found guilty.
Khan and Qureshi have been charged under Sections 5 and 9 of the Act, both of which were amended by the previous government. In particular, the word ‘retained’ was added to section 5 in the amendments which forms one of the key charges against Khan.
Section 5 also details what punishment will be given to anyone found guilty under the act.
The act says that anyone found guilty of the offences, including communicating or retaining secret documents, can be sent to jail for up to 14 years. They can even be sentenced to death.
However, the act also makes space for a shorter sentence in clause (b) of up to two years imprisonment and a fine ‘in any other case’. However, Khan’s charges seemingly fall within clause (a).
As for Qureshi, who has been charged with aiding and abetting Imran Khan in his illegal use and retention of the cipher, the answer is found in Section 9 of the act.
Section 9 says that anyone who aids or abets the crime should be given the same punishment ‘as if he had committed such offence.’ Therefore, the fate of the former PM and former foreign minister could be tied together.