Imran terms polls
‘mother of all selections’,
jail superintendent
stopped him to talk

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ISLAMABAD: As former prime minister Imran Khan asked his party to engage in electioneering with full force, he questioned the transparency of the Feb 8 elections and said the ‘preferential treatment’ meted out to a single political party had turned these polls into the ‘mother of all selections’.

He made these remarks during his routine interaction with reporters after the hearing of the cipher case being held at Adiala Jail. However, the interaction was abruptly ended after the jail superintendent, Asad Warraich, asked Imran Khan not to address the media persons in the makeshift courtroom.

former prime minister Imran Khan
former prime minister Imran Khan

Mr Khan responded it was his right to speak to the media, but Mr Warraich reminded him that journalists were only allowed to cover the case proceedings, not highlight his political statements.

At this, the PTI leader said he would only talk about his trial. The jail superintendent asked him to get permission from the judge if he wanted to talk to reporters.

Eventually, DIG Prisons Rana Rauf also reached the courtroom and asked reporters to leave the premises as the proceedings had already been concluded. The prison staff escorted the media persons out of the court premises, while Mr Khan was protesting the ‘censorship’.

Earlier, he quipped that he was dubbed a ‘selected’ PM by his opponents, but the upcoming elections were the ‘mother of all selections’. He alleged Nawaz Sharif was a “certified money launderer” who was cleared by the superior courts and added that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the caretaker government were also supporting him.

Mr Khan also asked the PTI to stage a protest next Sunday. It may be mentioned that Mr Khan, his spouse Bushra Bibi, Mirza Shahzad Akbar, Zulfi Bukhari, Farah Gogi, Malik Riaz and his son are facing a reference in the National Accountability Bureau since Malik Riaz sent the amount to buy the property through money laundering.

Cipher case hearing

On Monday, the special court recorded the statement of four witnesses, including ex-foreign secretary Sohail Mehmood and former interior secretary Yousaf Naseem Khokhar.

As Sohail Mehmood was recording the statement, former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi snubbed the prosecutor for ‘leading’ the witness.

He also praised Mr Mehmood and said he was an upright and honest officer. He objected to the frequent interventions of special prosecutor Raja Rizwan Abbasi, who denied that he was putting words into the mouth of the witness.

During the hearing, Mr Qureshi continuously criticised the prosecution, while judge Abual Hasnat Mohammad Zulqarnain was making all-out efforts to bring down the tension.

Mr Qureshi said that the witness was reading out from already written text, but the prosecutor deliberately was trying to lead him in a certain direction. Judge Zulqarnain remarked that the prosecution was doing its job.

‘Attempts to rescue Donald Lu’

At this, Mr Khan also jumped up and joined him at the rostrum. He said that everyone was “trying to rescue Donald Lu”.

The ex-secretary of foreign affairs testified before the court that the then-ambassador to the US Asad Majeed sent a cipher regarding his discussion with US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Donald Lu to the foreign ministry. He said that the cipher was decoded and a master copy was sealed and placed in the record.

According to him, copies of the decoded cipher were transmitted to some authorities, including the PM and the foreign minister.

He said that the copy sent to the ex-PM was never returned. Mr Qureshi said that he returned the copy to the ministry and the ex-secretary replied in the affirmative.

The judge adjourned proceedings till Tuesday (today); however, the counsel for Mr Khan, Mohammad Ali Bukhari, said that he would not be available due to his election campaign.

Petition against jail trial

The Islamabad High Court on Monday sought details regarding the course adopted to declare the trial of former prime minister Imran Khan and his spouse Bushra Bibi in jail.

An Islamabad High Court (IHC) division bench comprising Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri took up the petitions of Mr Khan against his jail trial in Toshakhana and Al Qadir Trust references.

The court declined to provide immediate relief to Mr Khan. Justice Farooq remarked that the court would examine the notification of the federal government regarding the jail trial and would rectify the loopholes. Advocate Shuaib Shaheen, counsel for Mr Khan, requested the court for a short adjournment.

The hearing was adjourned till Tuesday. It may be mentioned that the accountability judge Mohammad Bashir was hearing both the references. Last week, he applied for post-retirement leave, which is due in March.