Another official blames Imran for missing cypher

Another former bureaucrat has testified before a special court that Imran Khan had not returned the copy of a classified diplomatic cypher to the foreign ministry until his ouster as the prime minister in April 2022.

The Special Court is holding trial of Imran Khan and PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi inside Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail for allegedly manipulating the cypher for political gains in March 2022, ahead of a no-confidence motion that resulted in the end of the PTI’s rule.

The court presided over by Judge Abual Hasnat Muhammad Zulqarnain recorded testimonies of four more prosecution witnesses including former foreign secretary Sohail Mahmood on Monday.

In his statement, Mahmood said he retired as the foreign secretary in September 2022. Till that time, the Prime Minister’s Office had not returned the cypher copy to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he said.

Earlier, Azam Khan, the former principal secretary of the ex-PM had also told the court that the copy of the cypher had been misplaced by Imran.

Read more: ‘Missing cipher’ stokes legal troubles for Imran

In his testimony given in the court on January 18, Azam Khan had claimed that Imran Khan directed his military secretary and personal staff “a number of times” to search for the cypher, but then he waved a piece of paper in the public rally on March 27 “implying” that it was the diplomatic cypher.

Referring to the incident, the former bureaucrat had, however, clarified that “as he [Imran Khan] did not open or read it [in the rally], therefore, I do not know what the paper was.”

During the testimony of Sohail Mahmood, when Prosecutor Rizwan Abbasi intervened, Shah Mahmood Qureshi objected, saying that the written statement is already in front of him, and the witness knows what to state.

He expressed respect for the former foreign secretary, calling him an honorable person. Qureshi said he knew what the prosecutor wanted to achieve through these interruptions.

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“If you intend to proceed in this manner, you should bring a written verdict and announce it,” he said, adding that the prosecutor has no right to intervene during a testimony and the prosecutor should refrain from feeding the witness.

When the prosecutor asked if he had asked any misleading questions, Qureshi said if the prosecution had been acting in a proper manner, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) would not have invalidated the court proceedings twice.

The judge addressed the former foreign minister, stating that interfering in the proceedings was not appropriate. He requested Qureshi not to behave in such a manner.

Qureshi stated, “If the prosecutor interrupts the witness, then I will definitely speak. I will not remain silent.” His lawyer, Ali Bukhari, requested the court to get the witness’s statement recorded himself.

The judge, addressing Shah Mahmood Qureshi once again, said, “Shah Sahib, this doesn’t look good. If the proceedings are going in a better way, let them continue.”

The PTI leader replied that if the former prime minister and former foreign minister have confidence in the former foreign secretary, then the prosecution should also not intervene.

During the conversation between the judge and Qureshi, the PTI founder, Imran Khan, also came to the rostrum and said, “Here, there is only an attempt to save [US official] Donald Lu.”

The court, in response to Qureshi’s objection, prevented Prosecutor Rizwan Abbasi from intervening during the testimony of the witness. After concluding the statements of the four witnesses, further proceedings in the case were adjourned till Tuesday (today).

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