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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Gov. Challenges Acquittal of Khan, Qureshi in Cipher Case

The interior ministry has appealed to the Supreme Court to challenge the Islamabad High Court's acquittal of Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the cipher case, citing jurisdictional and evidentiary concerns.

A local court in Islamabad recently acquitted Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder Imran Khan and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the high-profile cipher case. The case, stemming from accusations of violating the Official Secrets Act, 1923, saw both leaders initially sentenced to 10 years in prison by a special court established under the act. However, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) overturned this decision, leading to their acquittal. This verdict also cleared other PTI leaders, including Sheikh Rashid and Sadaqat Abbasi, of related charges.

The cipher case originated from an incident in March 2022, when Imran Khan publicly displayed a document during a rally, claiming it evidenced an international conspiracy against his government. This event occurred shortly before a vote of no confidence led to his ouster as the prime minister. The case saw the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) allege that Imran Khan had retained a copy of the diplomatic cable, which he argued contained a threat from the United States to topple his administration.

Government Appeals to Supreme Court

Despite the IHC’s decision, the interior ministry has challenged the acquittal before the Supreme Court. The ministry’s appeal argues that the IHC did not possess the jurisdiction to hear the appeals and ignored substantial evidence presented by the prosecution.

The appeal asserts that the Official Secrets Act does not provide for filing appeals against special court judgments and that the IHC exceeded its authority by creating rights not provided by the Constitution or valid law. The government contends that the IHC’s ruling was “perverse, arbitrary, and contrary to the material available on the record.”

Read More: PTI Leaders Acquitted in May 9 Vandalism Case

The interior ministry also criticized the defendants’ conduct during the trial, noting that Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi were non-cooperative and filed numerous pleas to delay proceedings. According to the appeal, 65 miscellaneous applications were submitted by the defendants, which were heard and decided by the trial court. The government maintains that the trial court provided sufficient evidence, including forensic analysis and credible witness testimonies, which were not adequately considered by the IHC.

Legal and Political Implications

The cipher case, alongside the acquittals and subsequent appeal, highlights the ongoing political and legal battles in Pakistan. The PTI, under Imran Khan’s leadership, has continually framed these legal challenges as part of a broader struggle for “real freedom” against what they describe as a “US-backed” coalition government. The IHC’s acquittal provided significant relief to PTI leaders, allowing them to focus on their political campaign without the burden of these legal proceedings.

The government’s appeal to the Supreme Court underscores the complexity and high stakes of this case. The outcome of this appeal will not only impact the political landscape but also set a precedent regarding the jurisdiction and powers of Pakistani courts in cases involving the Official Secrets Act. As the Supreme Court prepares to hear the appeal, all eyes will be on the judiciary to see how it navigates these intricate legal and constitutional issues.