ISLAMABAD: A special court in Islamabad, recently established to hear cases filed under the Official Secrets Act, on Wednesday sent PTI Vice-Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi on a 14-day judicial remand in the cipher case.
The former foreign minister was arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) earlier this month in connection with a first information report (FIR) registered on August 15 under the Official Secrets Act, 1923 against ex-premier Imran Khan and Qureshi.
The FIR alleged that Imran, Qureshi and their other associates were involved in the communication of information contained in a secret classified document (cipher telegram received from Parep Washington dated March 7, 2022, to the Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to unauthorised persons by “twisting facts to achieve their ulterior motives and personal gains in a manner prejudicial to the interests of state security”.
The case was registered after an American news outlet ‘The Intercept’ recently published what was claimed to be the contents of the diplomatic cable that had reportedly gone missing from Imran’s possession.
Imran had persistently claimed he was ousted from office last year under a “US conspiracy”. The PTI alleges that cipher contained a threat from the United States to oust Imran from power. Imran had since walked back on that narrative.
The FIA was initially investigating Imran for revealing the contents of a confidential diplomatic cable and keeping it in his possession. However, after former principal secretary Azam Khan disclosed that the cipher went missing from Imran’s custody, the investigation agency also started looking into this aspect.
After Qureshi’s arrest on Aug 19, a local magistrate in Islamabad had remanded the PTI leader in FIA custody for a day. Later, a special court had again handed him to the agency twice and had declared the proceedings as in-camera.
On Saturday, a six-member FIA team grilled the PTI chief in Attock Jail — where he has been incarcerated following conviction in the Toshakhana case — for over an hour.
Earlier today, Special Court Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain presided over Imran’s in-camera hearing, which was held at the district jail in Attock.
The judicial remand of the ex-premier, who was recently revealed to have already been detained in the cipher case along with the Toshakhana case, was extended by 14 days.
After the hearing, Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain returned back to Islamabad, where he presided over Qureshi’s in-camera hearing. In the afternoon, upon the completion of his two-day physical remand, the PTI vice-chairman was presented before the special court amid high security.
Special prosecutors Zulfiqar Naqvi and Shah Khawar appeared before the court while Qureshi’s legal team — comprising Advocate Babar Awan, Shoaib Shaheen and Umair Naizi — was present as well.
During the hearing, prosecutor Naqvi urged the court to grant the FIA further physical remand of the PTI leader, which the court rejected and instead, sent the PTI vice chairman back to the Adiala jail on a 14-day judicial remand.
Meanwhile, Qureshi, via his legal team, filed a post-arrest bail petition in the cipher case earlier today. Subsequently, the special court issued notices to the respondents, including the FIA, seeking responses till Saturday (September 2), when it will hear the plea.
Judge Zulqarnain also allowed the PTI leader’s legal team to meet him at the Adiala Jail, where lawyers Awan and Amna Ali plan to meet him today.