In a significant development, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, and his second-in-line, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, were handed a 10-year prison sentence in the Cipher case. A special court, presided over by Judge Abu Alhasnaat Zulqurnain, declared them guilty of leaking state secrets. The verdict was announced at Adiala Jail, where the court proceedings took place.

The high-profile case revolved around the alleged retention and communication of a classified diplomatic cable by Imran Khan and Qureshi, purportedly sent by Pakistan’s ambassador to the US. Imran Khan’s sisters and Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s children were present at the jail for the hearing, expecting to record statements under Section 342 of the criminal procedure code. However, the court surprised everyone by announcing the verdict instead.

During the trial, the state defense counsel examined over a dozen witnesses, while the defense’s own lawyers only cross-examined four of them. Last week, the FIA prosecutor urged the court to close the defense counsel’s right of cross-examination, accusing them of employing delay tactics to prolong the trial.

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Imran Khan consistently denied the charges, contending that the leaked document contained evidence of a plot orchestrated by political rivals, with assistance from the US administration, to remove him as the Prime Minister. Both the Pakistani government and Washington rejected these allegations.

This decision is expected to have a significant impact on the upcoming general elections scheduled for February 8, 2024. Imran Khan, 71, is already facing over 150 cases related to various offenses, including riots, blasphemy, graft, and other serious crimes.

The Cipher case originated in August 2023 when the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) registered an FIR against the PTI founder under Section 5 of the Official Secrets Act 1923. The case was filed by the anti-terrorism wing of the investigation agency. Imran Khan had presented a letter at a public gathering in Islamabad on March 27, 2022, claiming it as evidence of an “international conspiracy” supported by the United States to overthrow his government.

Following these claims, the FIA initiated an investigation against Khan for allegedly making public a confidential diplomatic cable and keeping it in his possession. It was later revealed that the PTI chief had lost the copy of the cipher, written by the then Pakistan’s ambassador to the US.

Azam Khan, a close aide of the PTI chairman, testified against Imran Khan, accusing him of promoting a false narrative about the US regime’s cypher controversy. Investigators asserted that Khan allegedly used the cipher to divert the public’s attention towards foreign involvement in the opposition’s no-confidence motion.

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