Cypher-gate stirs ‘arrest buzz’ for PTI chief

ISLAMABAD:

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Thursday warned the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman of his arrest if he failed to cooperate with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in its probe into the so-called cypher-gate scandal.

Sanaullah’s warning in a tweet came as Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar accused Imran Khan of jeopardising national security by exposing a classified document for political purposes, saying that he (Imran) could get 14-year jail term for that.

“The FIA has summoned [the] PTI chairman on July 25. If he does not cooperate in the investigation, he may be arrested during the inquiry stage,” the interior minister wrote on Twitter, adding that the federal agency would probe into the matter.

The federal government had announced an official inquiry into the ‘cypher-gate’ case to initiate proceedings against the former prime minister for violating the official secrets act by making a classified document public.

The FIA has kick-started its investigation, summoning the PTI chief on July 25. The FIA has also summoned former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and ex-finance minister Asad Umar on July 24.

The diplomatic cypher saga plunged into a fresh acrimonious chapter on Wednesday after a purported “confessional statement” attributed to former principal secretary Azam Khan landed on the political landscape.

At a news conference with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Attaullah Tarar, Sanaullah said that Azam had confirmed that he handed over the cypher to the then prime minister, who told him the next day that it was lost.

The minister stated that a case would be registered against Imran and his accomplice, then foreign minister Qureshi, under the official secrets act for making a classified document public.

“The then prime minister used the cypher to gain political mileage. Eventually, he [Imran] will have to appear before the court and his case will be tried in the special court,” he said.

“That cypher is still in his custody and he will remain a criminal until he returns the classified document or it is recovered by an investigation agency from him,” the minister added.

Echoing Sanaullah’s statement, Law Minister Tarar accused the PTI chairman of jeopardising national security by exposing a classified document for political purposes, saying that punishment for it could be up to 14 years imprisonment.

At a separate news conference in Islamabad, Tarar clarified that the cypher was an official classified document that could neither be made public nor shared with anyone.

“National security was compromised by the indiscriminate use of the cypher, as evident from the confessional statement of Azam Khan. The PTI chairman used it for his own political motives,” Tarar added.

The law minister also said that the cypher had not been returned to the authorities concerned, adding that the case against the former premier would be thoroughly investigated on merit.

He warned that misusing diplomatic documents for personal gains could lead to severe penalties, including life imprisonment.

“If a cypher is used for political motives, a sentence of up to 14 years can be imposed,” he added.

Even if a cypher was misplaced by mistake, the sentence of up to two years might be awarded, the law minister said.

The minister added that the PTI chief had been summoned by the FIA, and he would be investigated in this matter.

Meanwhile, Power Minister Khurram Dastagir accused the former prime minister of lying to the people about the cypher and violating the official secrets act. He added that Azam’s statement made it clear that the nation was misled.

The PTI chief, who was removed as the prime minister in April 2022 through a parliamentary vote of no confidence, had accused Washington in March last year of orchestrating a plan for his ouster.

He had referred to the cypher in question as evidence for his claims. His claim was later rejected by the US State Department. And on Wednesday, the US once again said that the former prime minister’s claims “are completely unfounded”.

At a regular news briefing, State Department spokesperson Mathew Miller was asked as to why the US didn’t help out with resolving “this [cypher] whole issue”. Miller said that the “US does not involve itself” with domestic political questions.

“We do not take sides on political parties in Pakistan or any other country,” Miller told the journalists. “I will take your word for it,” he replied, when asked about Sanaullah’s statement about sedition charges against the PTI chief. (WITH INPUT FROM APP)


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