ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday dismissed chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan’s petition, challenging his jail trial in cipher case and directed him to approach the special court in this matter.
A single bench of Chief Justice Aamer Farooq announced the verdict which he had reserved earlier in the PTI chief’s plea, challenging government’s decision to hold his trial in Adiala jail in the case registered against him under the Official Secrets Act.
In its decision, the court said that the jail trial was “in favour” of the former premier keeping in mind security-related matters. It observed that there is no ill will apparent on the matter of jail trial.
The bench also mentioned that Imran had voiced his reservations relating to his security “numerous times”. He added that if the PTI chairman has reservations about the jail trial, he may approach the trial court.
Separately, the IHC bench also reserved its verdict in Imran’s another petitions seeking dismissal of cipher case and bail in this case.
The counsel for PTI chief Sardar Latif Khosa contended that former Prime Minister Imran Khan was the country’s chief executive at that time. He added that the chief executive is empowered by his oath in such a situation.
The bench asked Khosa that if there was a law to declassify documents in Pakistan like that in the United States. He answered that this cipher was declassified by the federal cabinet while it was sent to the Foreign Office by Asad Majeed, Pakistan’s then-ambassador to the US.
Khosa contended that Khan was earlier sentenced to three years of imprisonment in the Toshakhana case on August 5, which was suspended on August 28. He added that the PTI chairman was; however, already arrested on August 16 in the cipher case.
He stated that it turned out that the special court (hearing cipher case) rejected physical remand on August 16. He also contended that the jail trial took place on August 30, while the hearing was held after the judicial remand.
He added that they have brought forward the statement of Azam Khan who was missing for three weeks. It is absurd to say that PTI chairman took away the cipher, he said.
Khosa said that the FIA did not give them anything as evidence and is talking about framing the charge on Tuesday (today). He maintained that the nation has expectations from the higher judiciary and he hoped you would stand up for the protection of citizens’ rights. He also argued that only the code, and not the word cipher, is mentioned in the Official Secrets Act.
The judge asked Khosa about the three points he placed before the court. He added that the first thing Khosa mentioned was the exemption of Article 248; the second stated that Section 5 of the Official Secrets Act does not apply to the case; and the third one that it was the prime minister’s responsibility to share the cipher with the public.
During the proceedings, the special prosecutor Raja Rizwan Abbasi presented his arguments. He said that the federal government had approved the filing of the complaint against Imran through the interior secretary.
He added that there were two categories of cases in the Official Secrets Act: one that included punishment for or less than 10 years (bailable) and the other that had a prison sentence that exceeded 10 years (non-bailable). He said that Imran was charged under the latter category.
At this, the Chief Justice questioned whether the information in the cipher could not be communicated further. “In one category you can, but not in the other,” the prosecutor replied.
He contended that this cipher was top secret and hence could not be shared. He claimed that the petitioner’s lawyer did not provide the correct interpretation or definition of Section 5 of the Official Secrets Act— which talks about “wrongful communication of information”. He further said that the PTI chairman disclosed the information in the cipher to the public when he was not authorized to do so.
When the IHC CJ asked if there were any rules of practice or SoPs related to a cipher, the prosecutor stated that the document has two categories of which one can be communicated while the other cannot be disclosed. He added, “This cipher falls under the second category.”
He continued that as the prime minister, Imran was not exempted from Article 248 (Protection for president, minister or governor) of the Constitution. “In the cipher case, the PTI chief can either be sentenced to life imprisonment or death,” said the prosecutor.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023