Shah Mahmood Qureshi sent to 14-day judicial remand in cipher case

Islamabad: A special court on Wednesday sent Pakistan’s former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on a 14-day judicial remand in connection with the leakage of a confidential diplomatic cable that was allegedly misused for political purposes by the previous Imran Khan-led government.

Qureshi, 67, a close aide of jailed former prime minister Khan and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party’s Vice Chairman, was arrested on August 19 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.

The two-time foreign minister was later remanded by the special court in Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) custody for four days till August 25. On Friday last, the court extended his remand by three days. On Monday, the court extended Qureshi’s physical remand by two days.

In the afternoon, upon the completion of his two-day physical remand, Qureshi was presented before the special court, recently established to hear cases filed under the Official Sec­rets Act, amid high security.

Special prosecutors Zulfiqar Naqvi and Shah Khawar appeared before the court while Qureshi’s legal team – comprising Advocate Babar Awan, Shoaib Shaheen and Umair Naizi – was present as well, the Dawn newspaper reported.

During the hearing, prosecutor Naqvi urged the court to grant the FIA further physical remand of Qureshi. However, the court rejected the request and instead, sent the PTI leader back to the Adiala jail on a 14-day judicial remand.

Qureshi, via his legal team, also filed a post-arrest bail petition in the cipher case earlier in the day. Subsequently, the special court issued notices to the respondents, including the FIA, seeking responses till Saturday, when it will hear the plea.

PTI chief Khan, 70, has for long mentioned the missing cable as evidence of a “foreign conspiracy” to remove him as the prime minister in April last year.

According to a media report last week, the trial of Khan and Qureshi in the cipher case, under the Official Secrets Act, is expected to start within a fortnight.

Official sources said the FIA is trying to complete the challan by August last week for the initiation of trial in the special court. The FIA has arrested both Khan and Qureshi in the case.

Qureshi was foreign minister when the issue of the diplomatic cable erupted.

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.

A trial court in Islamabad convicted and sentenced Khan to three years in prison on August 5 in the Toshakhana corruption case. On Tuesday, the Islamabad High Court suspended his three-year sentence. However, he remains in Attock jail.

On Wednesday, a special court extended until September 13 the judicial remand of Khan in the cipher case, dashing hopes of the former Pakistan prime minister’s quick release from jail.

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