Imran Khan, ex-Pakistan FM Qureshi acquitted by Pakistan court in cipher case

Jailed Pakistan former Prime Minister Imran Khan and other top leaders of his party have also been acquitted by a court in two cases related to vandalism during an anti-government protest march in 2022

Updated - June 03, 2024 07:04 pm IST

Published - June 03, 2024 06:57 pm IST - Islamabad

Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a news conference at his home, in Lahore, Pakistan, on, May 18, 2023. In a major relief for Imran Khan, a top Pakistani court on June 3 acquitted the beleaguered former Prime Minister as well as his Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the cipher case.

Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a news conference at his home, in Lahore, Pakistan, on, May 18, 2023. In a major relief for Imran Khan, a top Pakistani court on June 3 acquitted the beleaguered former Prime Minister as well as his Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the cipher case. | Photo Credit: AP

In a major relief for Imran Khan, a top Pakistani court on June 3 acquitted the beleaguered former Prime Minister as well as his Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the cipher case.

Mr. Khan, the founder of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment along with Mr. Qureshi in the cipher case in January by Islamabad’s special court set up under the Official Secrets Act.

The cipher case pertains to the incident in which the former premier showed a piece of paper — allegedly a copy of a diplomatic communication — at a public rally in Islamabad, claiming it as proof of a conspiracy against his government by a foreign power, referring to U.S. diplomat Donald Lu, who has been at the centre of the cipher controversy.

Mr. Khan had brandished the cipher paper just two weeks before the ouster of the PTI government in April 2022 through a vote of no-confidence in Parliament.

Both Mr. Khan and Mr. Qureshi had challenged the verdict in the Islamabad High Court.

Following the hearing of their pleas on Monday, Islamabad High Court suspended their sentence and ordered that they be released if not wanted in any other case.

Chief Justice Amir Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb announced the verdict.

The Cipher case was filed on August 15 last year by the Federal Investigation Agency which accused Mr. Khan and Mr. Qureshi of violating the secret laws while handling a cable sent by the Pakistan embassy in Washington in March 2022.

The two were first indicted in October last year but the process was reversed by the Islamabad High Court while ruling against in-camera proceedings. They were indicted again in December.

A total of 25 witnesses appeared before the court, including former principal secretary to PM Azam Khan, former Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood and ex-Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan.

Imran Khan acquitted in vandalism cases

A Pakistani court on June 4 acquitted jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan and other top leaders of his party in two cases related to vandalism during an anti-government protest march in 2022.

The 71-year-old Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party founder has been in jail since August last year after being convicted in some of the nearly 200 cases slapped on him since his ouster in April 2022.

The district and sessions court of Islamabad acquitted Mr. Khan, former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, ex-Communication Minister Murad Saeed, and other PTI leaders in two cases of vandalism during the 'Haqeeqi Azaadi' march, the Express Tribune newspaper reported.

In May 2022, the former cricketer-turned-politician launched a march toward Islamabad from Lahore to topple the coalition government of Shehbaz Sharif that assumed power after he was ousted as the premier following a vote of no confidence.

The rally was part of the PTI’s struggle to achieve “real freedom” and deliver the nation from the “slavery” of the “U.S.-backed” coalition government. Mr. Khan had accused the coalition government of coming to power through a "U.S.-backed conspiracy".

The Islamabad police at that time filed separate cases against 150 people, including Mr. Khan, Mr. Qureshi and other party leaders, over allegations of arson and vandalism in the federal capital.

Judicial Magistrate Ehtesham Alam on June 4 heard the case filed against the PTI leadership booked on charges of vandalism and violation of Section 144.

PTI leaders Ali Muhammad Khan and Asad Umar appeared before the court while all others had filed acquittal pleas. Golra police station had booked leaders of the former ruling party over violation of Section 144 imposed during PTI’s Azadi March.

Earlier this month, a judicial magistrate of Islamabad also acquitted Mr. Khan in two cases of vandalism during his party’s two long marches in 2022.

Judicial magistrate Shaista Kundi heard the pleas filed by the former prime minister for his acquittal in the cases registered at Islamabad's Lohi Bhair and Sahala police stations and one related to his production in the court.

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