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Monday, February 26, 2024  
16 Shaban 1445  

What do legal minds have to say about Imran Khan’s chances in cipher case?

Trial is yet to start as IHC rejects ex-PM’s post-arrest bail petition
Will Nawaz Sharif participate in elections?| Rubaroo | Aaj News

With the rejection of post-arrest bail in the cipher case, many people were wondering about former prime minister Imran Khan’s future as the country prepares for elections due in January next year.

In order to know the possibilities, anchorperson Shaukat Piracha had legal minds on his show Rubaroo which was aired on Aaj News on Friday.

When asked, Justice (retd) Shaiq Usmani said that the jail trial would begin unless a higher court stopped it. He added that it would be seen whether the cipher case has some weight or not. But he was of the view that there were some “risks” for the former prime minister if it was revealed during the trial that the suspect deliberately or for some other reason allegedly said anything that sabotaged the national security.

“But it was difficult to predict.”

Pakistan Bar Council Chairman Hassan Raza Pasha said that former foreign secretary Asad Majeed and ex-principal secretary to the PM Azam Khan were two “important” witnesses in the case. According to Pasha, minutes of the meeting between the leaders and secretaries would have to be seen.

“But cipher is a reality,” he stated, adding that if the pieces of evidence fall into the Official Secrets Act definition then it would be applicable. If not, Pasha said that then the court would determine whether it was punishable or not.

When PTI lawyer Shoaib Shaheen’s turn came to respond to the question, he explained the definition of cipher. “Cipher is codes of Foreign Office of every country and in the coded form, a diplomat sends it to their country. Periodically, the codes are changed so that it was not stated that what he wanted to say,” he said.

He quoted the-then Ambassador to the US Asad Majeed that a foreign diplomat had asked him to make the no-trust move successful or else Pakistan should get ready to bear the brunt. He recommended that it was an official meeting. “It was written that the US envoy should be demarched. After that, the coded form of this cipher was sent to four people: PM, president, COAS, and DG ISI, in brief notes.”

Shaheen said that the high-powered commission formed by former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif to determine the “characters involved” in the cipher was not formed.

According to the PTI lawyer, the cipher was not a secret document after getting declassified. He went on to add that the authority to decide what information should be made public lay with the PM under the Constituent and rules of the business.

Without naming Khan, he said that the former prime minister was made a suspect despite defending the country’s sovereignty and security.

Supreme Court advocate Raja Khalid Mehmood advised that Thursday’s decision of the Islamabad High Court should be read to better understand the case.

“The case law cited by the petitioner for grant of bail in the facts and circumstances is not relevant in as much as undoubtedly the evidence is all documentary but according to the prosecution, the copy of cipher is still in custody of the petitioner and […] where allegations are serious and prima facie link the accused with the commission of the offence, bail is to be denied in case of Official Secrets Act, 1923,” stated the IHC verdict.

The charge sheet said that the PTI chief, while holding the prime minister’s office, used the cipher in a “prohibited place (jalsa)” and “willfully communicated” the secret information to unauthorised persons, which was against the “interest of the State of Pakistan”.

“The cipher was entrusted to you in confidence by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs [but] you used the document while keeping it in your possession for the benefit of your personal political designs and compromised the cipher and the security system of Pakistan,” it read.

The charge sheet further stated that Imran conspired to “misuse the contents of the cipher” at a meeting in his Bani Gala residence on March 28, 2022. It had added that Imran kept the cipher in his possession and never returned it to the foreign ministry.

Fact-finding committee

In response to a query, PBC Chairman Pasha said that the government’s decision to form a fact-finding committee to ensure compliance with the Supreme Court’s verdict on the 2017 sit-in by the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan at Islamabad’s Faizabad was a “futile exercise”.

“I think the report and the characters are very visible. The implementation of a solid report from the Supreme Court was awaited and it has not been implemented. Delay is enough to see why it was not implemented,” he said.

PTI’s legal mind Shaheen was of the view that there were many aspects that were “ambiguous”. He added that the decision should already have been implemented.

“This committee will have the power to bring the elements under trial. I think it is only to hush up,” Shaheen said.

When asked how it was made to ‘hush up’, he said that the attorney general for Pakistan would appear and seek time from the court that would show that the government had made some work. “Civilian supremacy is only a dream in our country.”

While responding to a query, Pasha said that the president avoided his duty to announce the election date. But he said he saw elections in Pakistan after the intervention of the Supreme Court.

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