The counsel for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Wednesday filed a petition before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) seeking his indictment in the cipher case to be declared “illegal and unlawful.”
Earlier this week, the PTI chief and Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi were indicted in the cipher case, which pertains to the copy of a diplomatic document that went “missing” while in the custody of Khan. The indictment was due to occur a week prior but was delayed by the two leaders refusing to accept the challan because a separate petition against the case was pending before the IHC.
While the trial is being conducted in-camera, sources have claimed both Khan and Qureshi have pleaded not guilty. A formal trial is set to commence from Oct. 27 (Friday), with Special Court Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnaib summoning witnesses and asking the prosecution to submit evidence to substantiate its allegations.
In his latest plea before the IHC, Khan has named the state through the attorney general’s office and Ministry of Interior Secretary Yousuf Naseem Khokhar as respondents. Maintaining the petitioner was “quite aggrieved” with the manner of the framing of charges and proceedings conducted the Official Secrets Act, the plea argues the trial is “violating and compromising settled principles of ‘criminal law’ resulting in grave miscarriage of justice.”
The PTI appears to be relying on its standard practice of alleging “undue haste” in conducting trials—even as it argues for “speedy justice” in matters favoring it—with the petition claiming “fair trial and procedure” was compromised by the judge in framing charges against the accused “despite serious objections and pendency of applications filed before the” IHC. “There seems to be a clear rush and haste on past of learned trial judge to hurriedly frame charges and conclude trial,” reads the petition. “This contention holds appeal especially in light of the fact that challan has only recently been submitted in court, and there is no direction” for its early conclusion or for conducting day-to-day hearing by any superior court.
The petition further claims the framing of charges under Section 5 of the Official Secrets Act is in “blatant and brazen violation of the law.”
According to the plea, Khan’s “secret arrest” and “secret remand,” coupled with the haste in indicting him were “clearly indicative of erroneous approach and understanding of practice and procedure whilst adjudicating on the cipher trial.” It also accuses the judge of a “gross illegality” by framing charges in the absence of “main documentary evidence.”
In this regard, the petition has urged the IHC to declare the “hasty exercise” of framing of charges to be “illegal, unlawful and against the settled principles of the Code of Criminal Procedure.” It has also urged the court to declare the exercise in violation of Article 4 (due process) and 10-A (right to fair trial) of the Constitution. In this regard, it has sought a halt to the Special Court’s proceedings and a bar on recording evidence on a “defective charge.”