Imran Khan’s Legal Saga: IHC Suspends Toshakhana Verdict, Cipher Case Comes to Fore
ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) took a pivotal step on Tuesday by halting the enforcement of the sentence issued to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan in the Toshakhana case. However, Imran remains in custody due to his re-arrest in connection with the cipher case.
Imran’s recent judicial remand until August 30 was ordered by Judge Abual Hasnat Muhammad Zulqarnan of the Official Secrets Act court. The trial will take place at the Attock Jail on Wednesday.
Judge Zulqarnan, presiding over Special Court No.1 (Anti-Terrorism) and Designated Court (Official Secrets Act, 1923), instructed the superintendent of Attock Jail to detain Imran Khan in judicial custody. The directive is for Imran Khan’s appearance on August 30 before this court in relation to the cipher case.
The official notification from the Ministry of Law and Justice noted that the proceedings would transpire within the premises of Attock Jail, responding to concerns raised by the Interior Ministry about security. This Ministry expressed no objections to the trial’s location at Attock Jail on Wednesday, as mandated by the Official Secrets Act of 1923 (Act no XIX 1923).
The PTI chief’s counsel, Muhammad Shoaib Shaheen, responded to the re-arrest, stating, “Imran’s legal team was intentionally left uninformed and kept in the dark. This constitutes a manipulation of justice.”
The cipher case revolves around a diplomatic cable reportedly missing from Imran’s possession. PTI claims this cable conveyed a threat from the United States to remove Imran from power. The trial also includes proceedings against PTI Vice Chairman and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
In earlier developments, the IHC, following its Monday session, released a concise verdict instructing the authorities to release Imran Khan on bail. The court required Imran Khan to furnish a surety bond of Rs100,000 against the bail.
The evening’s issued order highlighted that Imran’s three-year jail term “qualifies as a short sentence.” The court acknowledged that the intricacies of jurisdiction and other related issues, raised by both sides, warrant deeper examination but are not pertinent at this stage, particularly considering the brevity of the sentence.
The court furthered that substantial arguments from both parties will be considered at a later appeal stage.
Due to this, the court suspended the trial court’s sentence from August 5, releasing Imran Khan on bail while satisfying certain conditions.
This verdict comes as a relief for Imran Khan, who had challenged his conviction and sentence in the Toshakhana case. Earlier in the month, an Islamabad District and Sessions Court sentenced him to three years in prison and imposed a fine of Rs100,000 for corrupt practices linked to the State Gift Repository. This conviction barred him from participating in the upcoming elections.
The former prime minister, disqualified from public office due to his conviction, was arrested immediately following the trial court’s ruling on August 5 and has been in custody at the Attock Jail.
In response to the imminent Toshakhana verdict, the PTI filed a separate plea requesting the court to prevent authorities from arresting Imran Khan in any case. This plea, filed by the PTI chief’s lawyer Salman Safdar, aimed to restrict the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), National Accountability Bureau, and the police from taking further action against Khan.
Meanwhile, the PTI core committee decried Imran Khan’s re-arrest in the “frivolous cipher case” despite the Islamabad High Court’s clear release order. This arrest was deemed an infringement on his freedom, as enshrined by the Constitution and law. The committee demanded an open hearing for the cipher case, highlighting its significance among the over 180 false cases targeting the PTI chairman, which they see as attempts to deter his commitment to making Pakistan a truly independent nation.