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What is cipher case that landed Imran Khan and Qureshi in jail for a decade?



The term “cipher” has taken center stage in Pakistani politics again after a special court established under the Official Secrets Act sentenced on Tuesday former premier Imran Khan and ex-foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to 10 years in jail in what has become a high-profile “cipher case.”

This case revolves around a diplomatic document allegedly mishandled by Imran Khan, with claims suggesting it contained a threat from the United States to remove him from office.

Former premier’s claims triggered controversy following Khan’s assertions of a conspiracy against him. The special court recently resumed the Cipher trial at Adiala district jail, indicting Imran and Qureshi for the second time on December 13.

Legal Maneuvers and controversies

Imran and Qureshi were initially indicted in October, but the Islamabad High Court (IHC) deemed the government’s notification for a jail trial as “erroneous,” leading to the scrapping of the proceedings.

a file photo of ousted premier imran khan and former interior foreign shah mahmood qureshi photo express file

Last week, state defense counsels were appointed due to the absence of previously appointed ones. Imran, critical of the trial, labeled it a “joke” given both the prosecution and defense teams belonged to the government.

What is cipher?

A cipher, in this context, refers to a secret method of writing sensitive messages in coded language. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) alleged that Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi disclosed the cipher of a sensitive diplomatic document under the Official Secrets Act.

The document, encrypted and difficult to decode, reportedly contained details of a meeting between US State Department officials and the then Pakistani ambassador, Asad Majeed Khan.

IHC stops cipher case trial against Imran Khan till Jan 11

The controversial document outlined a meeting on March 7, 2022, between US officials and Asad Majeed Khan. The complete text remains undisclosed under the Official Secrets Act, but The Intercept reproduced a section, revealing a threatening message sent by the US through Pakistan’s envoy.

This revelation coincided with political moves against Imran, culminating in his ousting after a successful no-confidence vote.

Imran’s allegations and US denials

Imran first spoke about the secret document on March 27, 2022, presenting it at a gathering in Islamabad as evidence of an international conspiracy against him.

He later claimed that the US had sent a threatening message through Pakistan’s envoy. The US State Department has repeatedly denied encouraging Pakistani officials to remove Imran from office.

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