Imran moves IHC
against ATC judge’s
appointment to
hear cipher case

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ISLAMABAD: PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Wednesday approached the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against the appointment of Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain, an anti-terrorism court (ATC) judge, to the special court that was recently established to hear cases filed under the Official Secrets Act.

Earlier today, Judge Zulqarnain extended the PTI chief’s remand in the cipher case till September 13. The hearing was held in Attock Jail, where the former premier is currently incarcerated in a graft case.

Barrister Salman Safdar talks to the media after a hearing on the cipher case against Imran concluded at the Attock district jail on Wednesday.
ISLAMABAD : Barrister Salman Safdar talks to the media after a hearing on the cipher case against Imran concluded at the Attock district jail on Wednesday.

The developments come a day after the IHC suspended the PTI chief’s three-year jail sentence in the Toshakhana case, in which he was convicted on August 5.

However, on the heels of the verdict suspension, the special court had directed Attock jail authorities to keep him in “judicial lockup” and produce him today in connection with the cipher case.

The cipher case pertains to a diplomatic document which reportedly went missing from Imran’s possession. The PTI alleges that it contained a threat from the United States to oust Imran from power. Proceedings against Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the PTI vice chairman and former foreign minister, are also under way in the same case.

A day ago, in a letter addressed to the Attock jail superintendent, Judge Zulqarnain said that Imran was “ordered for judicial remand in case FIR mentioned above, who is already detained in district jail, Attock”.

Last night, a notification issued by the law ministry said the interior ministry had conveyed “security concerns” to it in a letter and that the Law and Justice Division had “no objection” to Imran’s trial in the cipher case being held at Attock jail.

Imran moved the IHC after the hearing at Attock Jail on Wednesday. The petition was filed through PTI lawyer Sher Afzal Marwat and named the state through the law ministry secretary; the interior ministry secretary; the FIA director general, the Islamabad chief commissioner, deputy commissioner and inspector general of police; the Adiala and Attock jail superintendents; and Judge Zulqarnain as respondents in the case.

The application also raised objections to the law ministry’s notification allowing the trial to be heard in prison.

It alleged that the special court judge was “lacking the essential qualification” for the role, citing the qualification of an ATC judge had been defined under section 13(2) of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.

“Therefore, reducing the rank and status of learned administrative judge ATC 1, Islamabad to the status of a magistrate is a mockery of the law and void-ab-initio,” it added.

It went on to state that an ATC judge was defined under Sections 13 (establishment of ATC) and 14 (composition and appointment of presiding officers of ATCs) of the ATA, according to which, the presiding judge of an ATC, “under no stretch of imagination, could be a magistrate”.

The petition further said that the appointment was “contrary to law” and “void-ab-initio” as the special court judge was not a magistrate under section 4(m-a) of the CrPC, which defines a magistrate.

Detailing the grounds against the moving of the special court to the Attock jail, the plea said the production order issued by the judge was a “judicial order, which has neither been recalled nor reviewed” by the court concerned.