IHC rejects Imran Khan’s pleas seeking bail, cancellation of FIR in cipher case


ISLAMABAD – The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday rejected former prime minister Imran Khan’s pleas for bail and the cancellation of the First Information Report (FIR) in the cipher case.

IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq delivered the court’s decision after the arguments from both sides were concluded.

During the previous hearing, Khan’s counsel, Sardar Latif Khosa, argued that an FIR could not be registered against his client, as the former prime minister’s federal cabinet had declassified the cipher.

Khosa further stated that the ex-premier was protected by immunity under Article 248 of the Constitution, which covers acts performed or purported to be done by the president, governor, prime minister, federal minister, minister of state, chief minister, and provincial minister.

During the hearing, another counsel for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman, Barrister Salman Safdar, contended that Section 5 of the Official Secrets Act did not apply to the cipher case, as it is invoked for sharing sensitive information with foreigners, and this element was missing in the FIR against the PTI chief.

Imran Khan had challenged the registration of the FIR and sought bail in the case filed against him and the party’s vice-chairman, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, for misusing the classified document for political purposes.

A special court formed under the Official Secrets Act had indicted both party leaders, who are currently detained at Adiala jail.

On October 26, the IHC also denied Imran Khan’s requests to halt the trial in the matter.

Charge sheet

According to the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) charge sheet, the former prime minister and the ex-foreign minister were found guilty in the case, and the FIA requested the court to conduct their trial and issue sentences.

The FIA did not include former PTI secretary-general Asad Umar in the list of accused. However, Imran Khan’s former principal secretary, Azam Khan, was named as a “strong witness” in the case. The FIA attached Azam’s statements, recorded under Sections 161 and 164, to the charge sheet, and Khan is accused of keeping the cipher and misusing it.

The FIA also included the transcript of Khan and Qureshi’s speech on March 27, the day when Khan presented the cipher as a document from a foreign nation seeking his government’s removal from power. The FIA submitted a list of 28 witnesses to the court with the charge sheet after recording their statements under Section 161.

Among the witnesses are former foreign secretaries Asad Majeed, Sohail Mehmood, and the then additional foreign secretary, Faisal Niaz Tirmizi.

Cipher case

The cipher case originated on March 27, 2022, when Imran Khan, shortly before his removal from office in April 2022, presented a letter at a public rally, claiming it was a cipher from a foreign nation that had conspired with his political rivals to overthrow the PTI government.

The contents of the letter were not disclosed, and the name of the nation was not mentioned. A few days later, he accused the United States of conspiring against him and claimed that Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Affairs, Donald Lu, had sought his removal.

In October, the federal cabinet authorised action against the former prime minister and transferred the case to the FIA. Although the FIA summoned Khan, Umar, and other party leaders, Khan challenged the summons and obtained a stay order from the court.

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