Cipher case: Govt challenges Imran, Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s acquittals in SC
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Cipher case: Govt challenges Imran, Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s acquittals in SC

On Thursday, the federal government contested the acquittals of PTI founder Imran Khan and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the cipher case before the Supreme Court.

The cipher case involves a diplomatic document that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) alleges was never returned by then-Prime Minister Imran Khan, who claimed the document contained a threat from the US to overthrow his government.

In January, a special court established under the Official Secrets Act sentenced both Imran and Qureshi to 10 years in prison. Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain appointed state counsel for them in this case.

Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) accepted the two’s petitions against their convictions and last week, they were both found not guilty. The government criticized this judgment, arguing that the IHC did not consider the case in the context of ‘national security’. PM’s spokesman for legal affairs, Barrister Aqeel Malik, announced that the prosecution would appeal the IHC verdict.

Today, the government petitioned the Supreme Court through the interior secretary, seeking to convert their plea into an appeal in the “best interest of justice”. The petition claimed that the IHC order was “perverse, arbitrary and contrary to the material available on the record” and should be set aside.

The petition argued that the Official Secrets Act (OSA), 1923 does not allow for an appeal against the special court judge’s verdict, and that the IHC lacked the jurisdiction to create rights not provided by the Constitution or any valid law. It stated that the Act did not stipulate that the Pakistan Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1958 applies to filing an appeal.

The petition emphasized that courts cannot extend their jurisdiction beyond what the law explicitly states, as this would exceed their constitutional powers. It further argued that the specific law takes precedence over general law, thus rendering the criminal procedure code inapplicable in OSA cases.

The petition also highlighted the uncooperative conduct of the respondents during the trial, noting that they made numerous attempts to delay proceedings. It mentioned that 65 miscellaneous applications were filed by the respondents and were resolved by the trial court. Despite the trial court appointing state-funded defense counsels to complete the trial, the respondents’ efforts to delay the process impeded justice. These aspects, the petition claimed, were not considered by the IHC.

The plea stated that if a court determines a trial was unfair, the law mandates remanding the case back to the trial court to ensure proper proceedings. It argued that the prosecution had presented overwhelming evidence, including forensic analysis and admissions by the accused, which were not refuted during cross-examination. The IHC, according to the petition, failed to appreciate this evidence while acquitting the respondents, making the judgment legally unsustainable.

The petition concluded by asserting that the IHC did not sufficiently consider the evidence or the accused’s admissions, thus rendering the acquittal judgment flawed and unsustainable in the eyes of the law.

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