A special court established under the Official Secrets Act (OSA ) on Tuesday handed both former Pakistan premier Imran Khan and ex-foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi 10 years in jail in the cipher case( state documents).
The verdict comes a little over a week before the February 8 general elections, which the Imran Khan’s party PTI is contesting amid a state brutal crackdown on the party,its leaders and workers and without an electoral symbol.
This is Imran’s second conviction as he was previously convicted in the Toshakhana case on Aug 5, and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. The Islamabad High Court (IHC) had suspended his sentence. However, a division bench had later rejected Imran’s petition seeking the suspension of the conviction.
On the other hand, this is Qureshi’s first conviction.
Special Court Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain announced the verdict in the case. At the outset of the hearing, Imran and Qureshi were given a questionnaire under Section 342 of the Pakistan Penal Code.
After Imran recorded his statement, the court asked him about the whereabouts of the cipher, to which he replied: “I have said the same in my statement that I do not know. The cipher was in my office.”
In a post on X, PTI official issued a statement saying that Pakistan stood with Imran and Qureshi “who defended Pakistan and stood for ‘*haqeeqi azadi’*” ( real freedom).
“No such sham trial can change what happened in March-April 2022, on the orders of Donald Lu,”(US diplomat serving as Assistant Secretary Bureau Of South And Central Asian Affairs since 2021) the statement added.
“A complete mockery and disregard of the law in the cipher case shall not lead us to forget our primary responsibility in order to provide justice to Imran and Qureshi.”
The statement urged the public to come out and vote on February 8.
“God willing kaptaan and vice kaptaan will be back soon, and this sentence will be (thrown) in the dustbin in the appeal stage,” it concluded.
The cipher case pertains to a diplomatic document that the Pakistan Federal Investigation Agency’s charge sheet alleges was never returned by Imran. The PTI has long held that the document contained a threat from the United States to oust Imran as prime minister.
In December, the Supreme Court had approved the post-arrest bails of Imran and Qureshi. While Imran remained incarcerated in other cases, Qureshi’s expected release was also stalled as he was manhandled and re-arrested in a fresh May 9 case ( Viloent attacks on Pakistan army infrastructure by Imran khan supporters who blamed them for Imran khan ousting).
Days later, Justice Miangul Hasan Aurangzeb had restrained the special court from proceeding against the suspects — including Qureshi — till Jan 11, noting that there were “legal errors” in the case.
The special court had begun the cipher trial afresh last month at the Adiala district jail after Imran and Qureshi were indicted for a second time in the case on December 13.
The former premier and Qureshi, who is also behind bars, were first indicted in the case in October. Both had pleaded not guilty. The Islamabad High court (IHC) had termed the government’s notification for a jail trial “erroneous” and scrapped the entire proceedings.
Last week, state defence counsels had been appointed due to the previously appointed ones who had agreed to conduct cross-examinations not appearing in the next two court hearings.
Imran had said the trial was nothing less than a “joke” because the prosecution and defence team both belonged to the government.