Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan and his close aide Shah Mahmood Qureshi have been named “principal accused” in a case related to the alleged disclosure of state secrets, a media report said on Sunday. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Saturday filed a charge sheet in the Special Court established under the Official Secrets Act, declaring Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Khan and Vice Chairman Qureshi “principal accused” in the case, Dawn newspaper reported.
Both Khan and Qureshi are currently detained in jail on judicial remand. Khan, 70, was arrested in August after the case was filed against him for allegedly violating the Official Secrets Act by disclosing a secret diplomatic cable (cipher) sent by the country’s embassy in Washington last year in March. Qureshi, 67-year-old former foreign minister, was arrested under the Official Secrets Act for violating the secrecy of the official cable sent by the Pakistani embassy in the US to the foreign office when he was the foreign minister.
Khan and Qureshi have been placed in column 3 which describes the names and addresses of the accused sent for trial, the paper said.
The FIA invoked in the charge sheet sections 5 and 9 of the Official Secrets Act which may lead to a death sentence, or two to 14 years’ imprisonment if proven. While the investigation agency cited 27 witnesses in the charge sheet, the paper said that about a dozen of them would be produced in the witness box.
The FIA has also attached the transcript of Khan and Qureshi’s speeches made on March 27. The cricketer-turned-politician is charged with the violation of the Official Secrets Act in connection with the leakage of a confidential diplomatic cable from Pakistan’s embassy in Washington.
In March last year, ahead of the vote of no-confidence that resulted in his ouster, Khan pulled out a piece of paper - allegedly the cipher - from his pocket and waved it at a public rally in Islamabad, claiming it was the evidence of an “international conspiracy” being hatched to topple his government. However, during the interrogation with the joint investigation team (JIT) in the jail on August 26, Khan denied that the paper he waved at a public gathering last year was the cipher. He also admitted to losing the cipher, saying he couldn’t recall where he kept it.
His principal secretary Azam Khan stated before a magistrate and the FIA that the Khan used it for his ‘political gains’ and to avert a vote of no-confidence against him.
The purported cipher (secret diplomatic cable) contained an account of a meeting between US State Department officials, including Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu, and Pakistani envoy Asad Majeed Khan last year.
Of late, Khan has come under increased scrutiny following the publication of a purported copy of the secret cable by the US media outlet The Intercept, with many in the previous government led by Shehbaz Sharif pointing fingers at the PTI chief for being the source of the leak.
Khan, who served as the country’s prime minister until April last year, currently faces around 180 cases. These cases primarily stem from incidents that occurred following the sacking of the Lahore corps commander’s house on May 9.