IHC turns down Imran Khan’s bail, cancellation of FIR pleas in cipher case

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ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Islamabad High Court (IHC) Aamer Farooq on Friday turned down Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s petitions seeking bail and cancellation of the first information report (FIR) in the cipher case.

The IHC chief justice announced the verdict today which was reserved on October 16 after hearing arguments from both sides.

During the last hearing, Khan’s lawyer, Sardar Latif Khosa, had contended that the FIR could not be registered against his client as the federal cabinet of the former prime minister had declassified the cipher.

He further stated that the ex-premier enjoyed immunity as provided in Article 248 of the Constitution that protects the president, governor, prime minister, federal minister, minister of state, chief minister and provincial minister for their “act done or purported to be done.”

What is ciphergate?

The controversy first emerged on March 27, 2022, when Khan — less than a month before his ouster in April 2022 — while addressing a public rally waved a letter before the crowd, claiming that it was a cipher from a foreign nation that had conspired with his political rivals to have PTI government overthrown.

He did not reveal the contents of the letter nor did he mention the name of the nation it came from. But a few days later, he accused the United States of conspiring against him and alleged that Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Affairs Donald Lu had sought his removal.

The cipher was about former Pakistan ambassador to the US Majeed’s meeting with Lu.

The former prime minister, claiming that he was reading contents from the cipher, said that “all will be forgiven for Pakistan if Imran Khan is removed from power”.

Then on March 31, the National Security Committee (NSC) took up the matter and decided to issue a “strong demarche” to the US for its “blatant interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan”.

Later, after his removal, then-prime minister Shehbaz Sharif convened a meeting of the NSC, which came to the conclusion that it had found no evidence of a foreign conspiracy in the cable.

In the two audio leaks that took the internet by storm and shocked the public, the former prime minister, then-federal minister Asad Umar, and then-principle secretary Azam could allegedly be heard discussing the US cipher and how to use it to their advantage.

On September 30, the federal cabinet took notice of the matter and constituted a committee to probe the contents of the audio leaks.

In October, the cabinet gave the green signal to initiate action against the former prime minister and handed over the case to the FIA.

Once FIA was given the task to probe the matter, it summoned Khan, Asad Umar, Shah Mahmood Qureshi and other leaders of the party, but the PTI chief challenged the summons and secured a stay order from the court.

The Lahore High Court (LHC), in July this year, recalled the stay order against the call-up notice to Khan by the FIA.

The charge sheet added that Qureshi “aided and abetted” Imran and, therefore, was liable for the act in the same manner.

However, both the accused pleaded not guilty. 

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