The focus in Pakistani politics has once again shifted to the term “cipher” as a special court, operating under the Official Secrets Act, issued a 10-year jail sentence on Tuesday for former premier Imran Khan and ex-foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in a high-profile “cipher case.”
This case centers around a diplomatic document that Imran Khan allegedly mishandled, with suggestions that it contained a threat from the United States to oust him from office.
Controversy ensued after Khan claimed a conspiracy against him, leading to heightened tensions. The special court recently resumed the Cipher trial at Adiala district jail, presenting new indictments against Imran and Qureshi on December 13.
The legal proceedings have seen various maneuvers and controversies, beginning with the initial indictment of Imran and Qureshi in October. However, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) deemed the government’s notification for a jail trial as “erroneous,” resulting in the annulment of the proceedings.
Recently, new state defense counsels were appointed due to the absence of the previously assigned ones. Imran criticized the trial, deeming it a “joke” as both the prosecution and defense teams were affiliated with the government.
What is a cipher?
In this context, a cipher refers to a secret method of encoding sensitive messages. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) alleged that Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi revealed the cipher of a sensitive diplomatic document under the Official Secrets Act.
This encrypted document, challenging to decipher, reportedly contained details of a meeting between US State Department officials and the then Pakistani ambassador, Asad Majeed Khan.
The contentious document detailed a meeting on March 7, 2022, between US officials and Asad Majeed Khan. While the full text remains undisclosed under the Official Secrets Act, The Intercept reproduced a section, unveiling a threatening message sent by the US via Pakistan’s envoy.
This revelation coincided with political maneuvers against Imran, culminating in his removal following a successful no-confidence vote.
Imran’s accusations and US rebuttals
Imran initially disclosed the secret document on March 27, 2022, presenting it at a gathering in Islamabad as evidence of an international conspiracy against him.
He later asserted that the US had conveyed a threatening message through Pakistan’s envoy. The US State Department has consistently denied any involvement in encouraging Pakistani