The special court in its detailed cypher case judgment, issued on Thursday, unequivocally established that ex-premier Imran Khan, in collaboration with then foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, “compromised Pakistan’s cypher communications system, severely impacting the nation’s international standing, diplomats, and diplomatic reporting culture.”
The two key PTI leaders were handed down the sentence two days ago.
Authored by judge Abul Hasnat Zulqarnain, the judgment maintained that the accused’s actions resulted in “significant economic and political consequences, weakening Pakistan’s economy and adversely affecting national security.”
The court found both Imran and Qureshi guilty under various sections of the Official Secrets Act (OSA) and the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). Imran is sentenced to 10 years rigorous imprisonment under section 5(3)(a) of OSA, two years under section 5(1)(c) of OSA with a fine of Rs1 million, and another two years under section 5(1)(d) of OSA with an additional fine of Rs1 million. Both accused are also held guilty under section 5(3)(a) of OSA read with section 34 PPC, each receiving a 10-year rigorous imprisonment term. Qureshi is additionally held guilty under section 9 read with section 5(3)(a) of OSA. The benefit of section 382-B CrPC is awarded to both convicts, and all sentences are to run concurrently.
The court’s findings are grounded in tangible evidence of “open and shut case”, including the receipt of cypher messages supported by the chain of custody and cypher movement registers. The court emphasised the adverse effects of disclosing cypher information, supported by statements from witnesses and technical experts.
The judgment notes the accused’s “deliberate actions”, including unauthorised retention of cypher, negligent handling of telegrams, and the benefit to foreign powers. The court further highlights Imran’s public disclosure of confidential information instigated by Qureshi.
Read Imran says waved paraphrased copy at rally, not actual cypher
The judgment underscores the heavy responsibility on the prime minister to handle confidential information responsibly and notes “Sadly, the accused Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi, besides committing offences under the Official Secrets Act, 1923 has also violated his oath.”
The court “painfully noted” the conduct of both the accused during the proceedings, noting their “attempts to prolong the trial through legal maneuvers”. The accused’s refusal to engage in cross-examination, failure to sign court documents, and overall evasive behavior are deemed unethical and detrimental to the legal process.
“The above said accused played hide and seek just to prolong the instant proceedings which were very high profile and sensitive in nature.”
The court highlighted that such actions cast a negative impression on the accused’s integrity and sovereignty, damaging Pakistan’s external relations and national security interests.
“A heavy-duty burden is cast upon the prime minister, who becomes privy to the most confidential information. The constitution requires a person occupying the high office to act in the most responsible manner and absolutely refrain from doing anything which undermines interests of Pakistan.”
In conclusion, the court found the former premier and former foreign minister guilty of serious offenses, emphasising the need for responsible handling of confidential information by high-ranking officials and condemning the accused’s conduct during the legal proceedings.
Imran, Qureshi sentenced
A special court established under the Official Secrets Act awarded the former prime minister and former foreign minister 10 years imprisonment in the high-profile cypher case.
The court, presided by Judge Abul Hasanat Zulqarnain, announced the verdict during the hearing held within the premises of Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail.
Before sentencing Imran, the judge asked the former premier one last time where the cypher was.
“I have mentioned in my statement that the Prime Minister House’s security was not my responsibility. I don’t have the cypher,” he stated.
The judge also provided the two PTI leaders with copies of the statement and the questionnaire under Section 342 and both accused were asked to record their replies in the questionnaire.
After Imran and Qureshi recorded their statements under Section 342, the court announced its verdict.
PTI Chairman Barrister Gohar Ali Khan slammed the verdict, stating that the “reality of the bogus cases” could not be denied even if Imran and Qureshi were sentenced to death.
Expressing hope in the party’s future course of action, he said they would move the high court against the sentence and the court will deliver a “free and fair” judgment following today’s “abrupt” verdict.
Gohar urged PTI supporters to remain calm and peaceful, adding that the party is hopeful of relief from the Supreme Court and the high court.
“You do not have to be violent, don’t even throw a pebble, all the powers are being used to divert our attention from the February 8 elections, but stay focused on the polls and the power of our votes will do justice for Imran and Qureshi,” said the PTI chairman.
He also urged supporters not to fall for any “pre-planned” act like that on May 9.