ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) issued its decision on Friday, rejecting a request from former Prime Minister Imran Khan for post-arrest bail in the cipher case.
The cipher case centers around a diplomatic document that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) charge sheet alleges was not returned by Imran Khan. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has consistently maintained that the document contained a threat from the United States to remove Imran Khan from the position of Prime Minister.
On Monday, both Imran Khan and former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi were formally charged by a special court overseeing the case. They have entered pleas of not guilty.
Imran Khan had submitted multiple petitions to the IHC, including requests to halt his trial, secure bail in the cipher case, contest his indictment in the cipher case, suspend the Toshakhana verdict, and annul the First Information Report (FIR) in the cipher case.
On October 16, the IHC had reserved its judgment on the bail requests and the quashing of the FIR. It also addressed and dismissed the petition challenging the trial of the PTI chief in jail.
A day prior to the recent decision, the IHC confirmed Imran Khan’s indictment but instructed the special court judge to ensure a fair trial.
Today, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq announced the verdict, rejecting Imran Khan’s pleas for post-arrest bail and the quashing of the case.
The written decision, issued by the court, declared both petitions as lacking merit and accordingly dismissed them. The judgment emphasized that any observations made in the decision are provisional and should not prejudice the trial court.
Regarding the plea for dismissal of the case, the decision pointed out that the petitioner had an alternative remedy by submitting an appropriate application under section 249-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure. It also noted that Imran Khan is a co-accused in the case, and partial quashing of the FIR was not possible since it implicated multiple individuals.
The IHC referred to a prior Supreme Court verdict indicating that the contents of the cipher warranted only a diplomatic demarche and not any further strict action, as there was no conspiracy involved.
In response to the arguments presented in the petitions, the judgment highlighted that when Imran Khan addressed a public gathering, it was a political engagement, not a part of his duties as Prime Minister.
The IHC also noted that the Official Secrets Act imposed severe penalties for the offense, making it a non-bailable offense under section 497 of the CrPC. Consequently, there were no grounds for further inquiry.
The IHC emphasized that the case law cited by the petitioner for granting bail was not applicable in this situation, especially since the evidence was primarily documentary. The prosecution claimed that a copy of the cipher was still in Imran Khan’s possession, and when allegations are serious and prima facie link the accused to the offense, bail should be denied in Official Secrets Act cases.
Last month, the special court had rejected bail requests from Imran Khan and PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the cipher case.
On September 30, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had submitted a charge sheet in a special court established under the Official Secrets Act, naming PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Imran Khan as the primary accused in the case.
The charge sheet alleged that Imran Khan, while serving as Prime Minister, used the cipher in a prohibited location and communicated the secret information to unauthorized individuals, contrary to the interests of Pakistan.
It further claimed that Imran Khan conspired to misuse the cipher’s contents at a meeting in his Bani Gala residence and never returned the document to the foreign ministry, with Qureshi allegedly aiding and abetting these actions.