A special court on Wednesday rejected the prosecutor’s plea to extend the physical remand of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the cipher case and sent him on judicial remand for 14 days.
Formed under the Official Secrets Act, the special court of Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain conducted the hearing with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) producing the former foreign minister before it. During proceedings, the FIA’s special prosecutor sought an extension to Qureshi’s physical remand, claiming the PTI’s leaders mobile phone and a missing copy of the diplomatic cable had yet to be recovered.
However, the judge voiced displeasure over the repeated pleas for extending the physical remand and rejected the request. A few hours earlier, the same court had extended the judicial remand of PTI Chairman Imran Khan till Sept. 13 in the same case during a hearing at Attock Jail.
Qureshi was arrested by the FIA’s Counter-Terrorism Wing earlier this month after being named—along with Khan—in the cipher cases registered under sections 5 and 9 of the Official Secrets Act. The FIR registered states that Qureshi, Khan and their “associates” had communicated to an unauthorized person the information contained in a classified document and “twisted” facts to achieve “ulterior motives and personal gains in a manner prejudicial to the interests of state security.”
The cipher case pertains to an address of Khan from March 27, 2022, during which he had brandished a piece of paper claiming it was a copy of the cipher that “proved” that the U.S. had orchestrated his ouster through a vote of no-confidence. While Khan did not initially reveal the contents of the cable or name the nation involved, he subsequently named the U.S., adding Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Affairs Donald Lu had sought his removal.
In various interactions with media, Khan then revealed that the cipher had been sent by then-ambassador to the U.S. Asad Majeed Khan, who had summarized a meeting between him and Lu. The matter was then taken up by the civil-military National Security Committee (NSC), which decided to issue a “strong demarche” to the U.S. for its “blatant interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan,” but stopped short of declaring it a conspiracy. This view was validated by another meeting of the NSC after Khan had been ousted and Shehbaz Sharif elected the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
A few months later, two audio leaks were released on social media, featuring conversations between PTI leaders as well as then-principal secretary to the P.M. Azam Khan in which they could be heard discussing the contents of the cipher and how it could be used for political interests. Subsequently, the federal cabinet constituted a committee to probe the contents of the audio leaks, which advised the initiation of legal action against the PTI chief through the FIA.
Earlier this month, a U.S.-based publication published what it claimed were the full contents of the cipher, prompting a renewed interest in the case, with then-interior minister Rana Sanaullah saying it merited an investigation and warning that if the PTI chief were found complicit, he could face several years in jail.