FIA cites cipher audios during appeal hearing


ISLAMABAD:

The lawyer representing the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Wednesday told the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that in some leaked audios, former prime minister Imran Khan could be heard discussing his plan to use a classified diplomatic telegram to get political mileage.

FIA prosecutor Hamid Ali Shah resumed his arguments before an IHC division bench, hearing Imran Khan’s and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s appeals against their conviction in a case related to alleged misuse of a diplomatic cipher during the final days of the PTI government.

An audio clip of an alleged conversation between former prime minister Imran Khan and his principal secretary Azam Khan surfaced on September 28, 2022.

In the leaked conversation, Imran was purportedly heard speaking about “playing with the United States’ conspiracy” to topple his government. Azam was then heard advising Imran to hold a meeting with Qureshi and former foreign secretary Sohail Mahmood to bring this on record by faking the minutes of the meeting.

In another audio clip that appeared on September 30, 2022, Imran Khan, former minister Asad Umar, and Azam Khan could allegedly be heard discussing the US cipher in a meeting and how to use it in their interest.

Talking with reference to the audios, Hamid Ali Shah said the FIA had discussed the alleged conversations between Imran and his lieutenants in a report submitted to the trial court.

The bench—comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb— inquired if the report confirmed that the audios were genuine. The counsel replied that in the audio, the PTI founder could be heard advising his subordinate to “play with the cipher”.

Presenting an overview of the case, the FIA counsel said after approval of the federal cabinet, former Secretary Interior Yousaf Naseem Khokhar lodged an initial complaint with the FIA against the former PM and FM in October 2022.  Secretary Interior Aftab Durrani filed additional complaints with the FIA in September 2023 to fulfill the required provisions of the Official Secrets Act, of 1923.

He said the FIA arrested Imran on August 16, 2023, and Shah Mahmood Qureshi on August 19, 2023. The trial court indicted the accused on October 23, 2023.

The IHC later annulled the court proceedings and the trial court once again indicted the accused on December 13, 2023. He said the court nominated state counsels for the accused on January 26, 2024, due to “delaying tactics” employed by the lawyers of Imran and Qureshi.

“The state counsels concluded cross-examination of the prosecution witnesses by January 27. The trial court delivered its verdict on January 30,” he said.

The bench asked the FIA’s lawyer as to why the interior secretary and not the foreign secretary lodged the complaint against the PTI leaders.

Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb noted that there is a need for a comparative analysis of the competence of the PTI leaders’ lawyers and the lawyers assigned to them by the Islamabad advocate general. The court later adjourned till April 22.

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