Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Vice Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), who was apprehended by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in connection with a cipher case filed under the Official Secrets Act on Saturday, August 19, has been placed in FIA custody on a four-day physical remand.
Qureshi appeared before a specialized court established in Islamabad to handle cases falling under the Official Secrets Act earlier today. The proceedings were presided over by Judge Abual Hasnat, an anti-terrorism court (ATC) Judge entrusted with hearing cases under this act.
During the hearing, the FIA prosecutor requested a 13-day physical remand for Qureshi to aid in the recovery of the alleged missing cipher, while Qureshi’s legal counsel, Shoaib Shaheen, opposed this request.
The FIA prosecutor informed the court that PTI Chief Imran Khan, who is currently incarcerated, was also interrogated regarding the investigation into the case at Attock jail.
After considering the arguments, the court reserved its decision on the FIA’s remand request.
The courtroom was secured with a significant presence of Islamabad police, and unauthorized individuals, including junior lawyers from the party, were instructed to leave before the in-camera hearing commenced, as this matter falls under the Official Secrets Act.
The establishment of this court has arisen amidst controversy over the approval of the Official Secrets Act by President Arif Alvi, with the law being ratified shortly before the dissolution of the National Assembly on August 7.
Both Shah Mahmood Qureshi and PTI Chairman Imran Khan face charges under this act for allegedly using diplomatic cipher for political purposes.
The FIR alleges that both PTI Chairman and the former Foreign Minister disclosed classified document contents to unauthorized persons, manipulating facts for personal gain in a manner detrimental to state security.
The cipher case initially surfaced on March 27, 2022, when Khan, shortly before his removal from office, presented a letter he claimed was a cipher from a foreign nation, suggesting the removal of his government.
In October 2022, the federal cabinet authorized action against the former Prime Minister regarding this matter and handed it over to the FIA.
The case gained significance when Khan’s principal secretary, Azam Khan, stated before a magistrate and the FIA that the former PM had used the US cipher for political advantage and to evade a vote of no-confidence.
Azam Khan’s confession revealed that Khan used the US cipher at political gatherings, despite advice to the contrary, and discussed using it to divert public attention towards “foreign involvement” in the opposition’s no-confidence motion.