Pakistan court extends Ex-PM Imran Khan’s custody in ‘cipher’ case
Former Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan faced a setback in his legal battle as the judicial custody related to charges of leaking state secrets, popularly known as the “cipher” case, has been extended for an additional two weeks.
This decision was made public by Khan’s lawyer, Naeem Haider Panjutha, following a special court hearing held at the heavily fortified Attock Jail on Wednesday.
The 70-year-old opposition leader, Imran Khan, who has been embroiled in controversy, saw his remand extended until September 26. The charges against him are rooted in the alleged exposure of the contents of a confidential cable, known as the “cipher,” sent by Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States. Khan and former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi are accused of utilizing this information for political gain. These allegations are documented by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
Imran Khan has claimed that the contents of the cable provide evidence that the United States exerted pressure on Pakistan’s military to engineer the downfall of his government in April 2022.
He contends that this pressure was exerted because of his visit to Russia shortly before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February of the same year. Both Washington and the Pakistani military have vehemently denied Khan’s accusations.
The legal battle surrounding Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has been marked by challenges and controversies from the outset. The former cricketer-turned-politician has been at the epicenter of a political crisis since losing a confidence vote in parliament in April of the previous year. Furthermore, his conviction in a separate corruption case last month led to his disqualification from contesting in the upcoming national elections, slated to be held in the coming months.
In a surprising turn of events in late August, a high court temporarily suspended Imran Khan’s prison sentence for corruption, which had resulted from allegations of unlawfully selling state gifts during his tenure as prime minister from 2018 to 2022. However, a prior order for his remand in custody related to the state secrets case has prevented his release. It’s worth noting that, despite the suspension of his prison sentence, his corruption conviction still stands.
This extension of Khan’s detention coincides with a pivotal period in Pakistani politics, with other political parties gaining momentum in the lead-up to the general elections.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif recently announced the end of his elder brother and former premier Nawaz Sharif’s self-imposed exile, spanning almost four years. Nawaz Sharif is scheduled to return to the country on October 21, a development expected to invigorate the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) election campaign.
In contrast, Imran Khan’s party, the PTI, appears to be grappling with internal strife, with numerous leaders defecting – reportedly under the influence of the powerful military – while others face imprisonment or have chosen to leave the party. These political dynamics set the stage for a highly charged and competitive electoral landscape as Pakistan approaches its crucial elections.