Pakistan court extends ex-PM Imran Khan’s custody in ‘cipher’ case

Court extends detention of the former prime minister on charges of leaking the contents of a classified diplomatic cable.

Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan
Khan, a former cricketer, has been at the centre of a political crisis since he lost a confidence vote in parliament in April last year [File: K M Chaudary/AP]

Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s judicial custody related to charges of leaking state secrets has been extended by two weeks, his lawyer said.

“Imran Khan’s remand has been extended till September 26,” the 70-year-old opposition leader’s lawyer, Naeem Haider Panjutha, said after the special court hearing at the highly fortified Attock Jail on Wednesday.

Khan, along with former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, is charged with making public contents of a confidential cable, commonly referred to as “cipher”, sent by Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States and using it for political gain, according to a Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) document.

Khan alleges that the cable proves the US had pressed Pakistan’s military to orchestrate the fall of his government in April 2022 because he had visited Russia shortly before its invasion of Ukraine in February that year.

Washington and the Pakistani military have denied Khan’s accusations.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has challenged their trials in the case.

Khan, a former cricketer, has been at the centre of a political crisis since he lost a confidence vote in parliament in April last year. His conviction in a separate corruption case last month resulted in him being barred from contesting a national election, due to be held in the coming months.

In late August, a high court suspended Khan’s prison sentence for corruption just weeks after he was jailed, but a prior order for his remand in custody in the state secrets case prevented his release.

In the corruption case, Khan was sentenced to three years in jail for unlawfully selling state gifts during his time as prime minister from 2018 to 2022.

As a result, the  Election Commission of Pakistan barred him from contesting elections for five years. Although the prison sentence was suspended last month, the conviction still stands.

Khan’s detention was extended at a time when other political parties were building steam in the run-up to general elections.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced the end of the self-imposed exile of his elder brother and former premier, Nawaz Sharif, after almost four years. The prime minister said Nawaz will return to the country on October 21.

The three-time prime minister’s return is expected to energise the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) election campaign.

On the other hand, Khan’s party is in disarray and dozens of its leaders have already switched sides – allegedly under the pressure of the powerful military – while many have been imprisoned or have left the party.

Source: News Agencies