In a development complicating the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) case against former Prime Minister Imran Khan and former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, court records reveal that multiple state offices failed to return copies of a diplomatic cipher.

In a landmark decision on January 30, 2024 by a special court under the Official Secrets Act, former Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan and ex-Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi were sentenced to a decade in prison.

STATUS OF DIPLOMATIC CIPHER COPIES

According to court records, when the FIA registered a case against Imran Khan for withholding a copy of a diplomatic cipher, seven other state offices had yet to return their copies to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA). Despite the cipher being sent to nine top offices, only the Presidency had returned the copy by the time the case was initiated on August 15, 2023.


IMPLICATIONS FOR FIA’S PROSECUTION

The revelation presents a significant challenge for the FIA, as it must justify why only Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi were targeted for prosecution, while other state offices held onto their copies of the confidential document for an extended period. Most recipients returned their copies only after legal proceedings against the former PM and foreign minister were initiated.


DELAYED RETURNS AND EXCEPTIONS

Most recipients retained their copies for well over a year, returning them only once proceedings against Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi commenced. Notable exceptions include the President, who returned the document by June 15, 2023, and the Foreign Secretary, who returned the copy on the same date the case was filed.


RESPONSE FROM MOFA AND FIA

The MoFA submitted a reply to the FIA’s inquiry on September 27, 2023, revealing the delayed returns of the cipher copies. The FIA’s Counter Terrorism Wing in Islamabad filed an FIR against Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi under relevant sections of the Official Secrets Act and the Pakistan Penal Code, alleging misconduct related to the cipher.


LEGAL PROCEEDINGS AND DEFENSE ARGUMENTS

While the FIR alleged misconduct by Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi, their counsel argued that the delay in returning copies was not unique to their clients. Furthermore, they pointed out discrepancies in the timeline of the investigation, raising questions about the legitimacy of the case.

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