The special court recently formed to hear cases registered under the Official Secrets Act, 1923 on Tuesday recorded the testimonies of three witnesses against PTI Chairman Imran Khan and his fellow party leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the diplomatic cypher case.
Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain of the special court has started holding regular hearings of the matter.
The three witnesses belong to the foreign affairs ministry and have been cross-examined by defence lawyers.
The special court adjourned the hearing till November 10 and summoned three more prosecution witnesses.
There are a total of 28 official witnesses in the case. After the testimonies of three of them were recorded, 25 are left.
The prosecution is expected to present 12 to 15 more witnesses in the court while the rest will be relinquished.
The in-camera hearing of the case took place at the special court set up in Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail.
The process of recording the testimonies started at 10:10am and ended at 3:48pm with a break of half an hour.
Deposed premier Imran and former foreign minister Qureshi were present in the courtroom during the proceedings.
Read also: IHC favours cypher trial in jail
Before the witnesses recorded their testimonies, the two PTI leaders were allowed to meet their lawyers.
After the hearing, the PTI chairman’s lawyer Salman Safdar said the proceedings started in the morning and ended at around 4pm, adding that the apparently there was pressure on the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to finish the case quickly.
He continued that the three official witnesses had arrived from the Foreign Office even though the plaintiff in the case was the interior ministry, Safdar maintained that during cross-examination of the witnesses, the PTI’s legal team had not seen them “free”.
He added that the PTI had also filed an appeal in the Supreme Court for a post-arrest bail and against the indictment by the special court.
The lawyer said he had met with Imran twice today, adding that the PTI’s legal team had received great assistance from Qureshi in understanding the matter.
He claimed that the government and political opponents were left with no option but the cypher case.
“It seems that the government was faltering [in the court] today and their entire case was over,” he added.
Safdar said the proceedings of the case were taking place under the Official Secrets Act, but they were nowhere near a secret.
“The witness responded to every question that it was a secret and they won’t say anything,” he continued.
Read: Court adjourns cypher case hearing without recording testimonies
Barrister Umair Niazi, Imran’s focal person on legal affairs, said the PTI chief had reiterated that PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif could never play without his “umpires” and he was looking at them again.
He continued that he had spoken with Imran on the issue of terrorism. The PTI chief attributed it to the “weak Afghan policy”, he added.
Niazi quoted the PTI chief as saying that in his capacity as the foreign minister, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had never once visited Afghanistan.
Imran further said that by expelling Afghan nationals, the government was creating a new cause for an increase in terrorism.
Earlier in the day, Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb of the Islamabad High Court turned down a plea of Barrister Salman Akram Raja, representing the PTI chief, to stay the proceedings of the special court before listening to the arguments of Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan.
An IHC division bench, comprising Justice Aurangzeb and Justice Saman Rifat Imtiaz, continued hearing the intra-court appeal filed by the PTI chairman against a single judge’s decision to uphold the appointment of the special court judge and trial in prison.
Justice Aurangzeb remarked that time had changed and now was the era of technology.
He repeated the oft-quoted aphorism that “justice must not only be done, but must also be seen to be done”.
The AGP assured the court that he would ensure that the rights of the accused in the cypher case were not affected.
Also read: Court summons Adiala Jail official in Imran’s case
During the hearing, the AGP, PTI chief’s lawyer and others appeared in the court.
Presenting his arguments, Raja said the law ministry had issued a no-objection certificate to transfer the court to Attock Jail.
To the judge’s query, he replied that the law ministry had written a letter for a jail trial citing security reasons.
Raja informed the court that his client had been transferred from Attock to Adiala Jail.
Requesting an open trial of his client, the lawyer told the court that a copy of the diplomatic cypher had not even been included in the charge-sheet.
Justice Aurangzeb asked the AGP if he wanted to present his arguments today.
The AGP replied that he needed some time and would present his arguments at the next hearing.
The court later adjourned the hearing till November 14.