Cipher still in illegal possession former PM, says ex-principle secretary


ISLAMABAD: Former principle secretary to prime minister Azam Khan has stated that a copy of the cipher telegram sent to the PM Office was deliberately kept in his custody by the former prime minister with malafide intention, and was never returned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

According to a challan — based on the statement of Azam Khan and submitted to the special court in Islamabad by the FIA — the said cipher telegram (an official secret document classified as such) is still in the illegal possession or retention of the former prime minister (accused).

“The unauthorized retention and misuse of the cipher telegram by the accused persons compromised the entire cipher security system of the state and the secret communication method of Pakistani missions abroad,” the challan said quoting Azam Khan.

“These actions by the accused persons directly or indirectly benefited the interests of foreign powers and caused loss to the State of Pakistan. The competent authority has granted approval for the registration of the case. Therefore, at Police Station CTW FIA Islamabad, prima facie, the instant case FIR No 06/2023 dated August 15, 2023, has been registered under Sections 5 and 9 of the Official Secret Act, 1923, r/w 34 PPC, against former prime minister Imran Ahmad Khan Niazi, former Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi, for wrongful communication or use of official secret information and illegal retention of a cipher telegram (Official Secret Document) with malafide intention, whereas the role of the former SPM Muhammad Azam Khan, former Federal Minister Asad Umer, and other associates involved will be ascertained during the course of investigations.”

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According to the challan, “during the course of the investigation, the statements of the complainant and witnesses are recorded under section 161 CrPC. The witnesses supported the contents of the complaint. The relevant records from the Prime Minister Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Cabinet Division, the National Security Division, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, the Pakistan Television, and the Forensic Analysis Report from FIA CCRC Islamabad have been taken into possession through seizure memos.”

It further said: “After having permission from a competent court dated August 15, 2023, the nominated accused, Imran Ahmad Khan Niazi s/o Ikram Ullah Niazi, was interrogated and questioned. He was arrested on August 16, 2023, as he was already detained or convicted. I was arrested on August 19, 2023, after obtaining his arrest warrant from a competent court of law. Azam Khan has joined the investigation, and his involvement in the commission of the offense could not be established; therefore, he is in another case at District Jail Attock. He has shown willingness to get his statement u/s 164 CrPC”

“Keeping in view importance as witness u/s 164 CrPC has also been recorded.”

It said after thoroughly examining all the relevant documents seized through memos and statement recorded u/s 164 CrPC of witnesses following facts have arisen:

“Cypher is a secret and secured coded document that serves as a mean of communication for conveying official secret messages/communications between Pakistani missions abroad and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The plain text / message of Ambassador at Pakistani missions abroad is forwarded to Cypher Centre of relevant mission. The official designated at Cypher Centre converts the message into literal text. The literal text is converted into cryptogram through a cypher system and then it is sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pakistan. At Cypher Bureau MoFA, the process is reversed by converting cryptogram into literal text. The literal text is then converted into plain text. The decrypted document (cipher) is assigned a unique number for tracking purposes at cipher Bureau MOFA.”

The challan said: “The decrypted document (cipher telegram in plain text without any para-phrasing) is despatched to authorized recipients such as PM, FS, COAS, DG ISI. The to maintain accountability and safeguard against potential breach of security, it is mandatory that the recipients should return his/her designated copy back to the Cypher Bureau / Crypto Center for destruction to protect and secure the cypher system from being compromised. Mr. Jawad Ali Chatta Director (SSP), MOFA confirmed that the master copy of cypher telegram No. 1-0678 dated 07.03.2022 is in the safe custody of SSP Section of Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) Islamabad. However, as per the rules, the relevant cypher telegram cannot be shared as it is a highly classified document. In the same way Deputy Secretary Cabinet Division and Section Officer National Security Division Islamabad informed that the minutes of meetings related to said cypher are marked as “Secret” and cannot be shared as it is a highly classified document.”

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