Imran’s no-show in cipher case hearing; security reasons cited

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ISLAMABAD: Adiala jail authorities cited “security risks” as the reason for not presenting Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan before the special court at Islamabad’s Federal Judicial Complex (FJC) on Tuesday (today).

The court had ordered Khan’s presence in today’s hearing. Special Court Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain, overseeing the cipher case, had previously directed the appearance of Imran Khan and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the FJC. The failure to present the PTI chief could be interpreted as contempt of court since it is in direct denial of a judge’s orders. However, the security rationale might suffice for the court to not act upon this failure of the Adiala jail authorities to comply with court’s orders.

The cipher case involves a diplomatic document that the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) charge sheet claims was not returned by Imran Khan. The PTI contends that the document contained a threat from the United States to remove Imran as prime minister. Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi were indicted in the case on October 23, both pleading not guilty.

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The trial was initially being held at Adiala Jail in light of security concerns but last Tuesday, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) declared the proceedings illegal meaning that the entire process had to start from scratch. Consequently, the special court is set to initiate a fresh trial, necessitating the prosecution to file a new application for the jail trial.

Preparations for Imran Khan’s appearance included a meeting on Monday among police, administration, and relevant departments to finalise a security plan. Nevertheless, Adiala jail authorities submitted a report to the court, citing “serious security risks” as the reason for not bringing the incarcerated party chief to the court.

During today’s hearing at the FJC, Barrister Salman Safdar represented Imran Khan, and Advocate Ali Bukhari represented Shah Mahmood Qureshi. The FIA’s prosecutors Shah Khawar and Zulfikar Abbas Naqvi were also present. Safdar urged the court to indefinitely adjourn the hearing and grant bail to Imran Khan due to security concerns. Qureshi’s counsel, Bukhari, argued for directives to present his client, emphasising the legal responsibility. The special court reserved its verdict, with Judge Zulqarnain noting that an “appropriate order” will be issued later.

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