Ex-PM Imran Khan Acquitted in Multiple High-Profile Cases


ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party founder Imran Khan was on Monday acquitted in three high-profile cases, including the cipher case, in a major relief to the beleaguered former prime minister who was sentenced to 10 years in jail for making public a secret diplomatic communication.

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The 71-year-old former cricketer-turned-politician has been in jail since August last year after being convicted in some of the nearly 200 cases slapped on him since his ouster in April 2022.

On Monday, a two-member bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) comprising Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb acquitted Khan and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the cipher case.

However, the duo are not expected to be released from prison due to Khan’s sentence in the Iddat case (illegal marriage) while Qureshi was arrested in a case linked to the May 9 violence. Qureshi is on physical remand till June 5.

Khan and Qureshi were sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment in the cipher case in January by a special court, established under the Official Secrets Act. Both Khan and Qureshi had challenged the verdict in the Islamabad High Court.

The case pertains to the incident in which Khan showed a piece of paper – allegedly a copy of a diplomatic communication – at a public rally in Islamabad, claiming it as proof of a conspiracy against his government by a foreign power, referring to US diplomat Donald Lu, who has been at the centre of the cipher controversy.

Khan had brandished the cipher paper just two weeks before the ouster of the PTI government in April 2022 through a vote of no-confidence in Parliament.

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Omar Ayub hailed the verdict and called for the immediate release of Khan and Qureshi.

In a statement, Khan’s party urged the judiciary that the “false cases” against all political prisoners be dealt with as soon as possible and they should be released from jail.

The Cipher case was filed on August 15 last year by the Federal Investigation Agency which accused Khan and Qureshi of violating the secret laws while handling a cable sent by the Pakistan embassy in Washington in March 2022.

The two were first indicted in October last year but the process was reversed by the Islamabad High Court while ruling against in-camera proceedings. They were indicted again in December.

In a separate development, the district and sessions court of Islamabad acquitted Khan, Qureshi, ex-communication minister Murad Saeed, and other PTI leaders in two cases of vandalism during the ‘Haqeeqi Azaadi’ march in 2022.

In May 2022, the former cricketer-turned-politician launched a march toward Islamabad from Lahore to topple the coalition government of Shehbaz Sharif that assumed power after he was ousted as the premier following a vote of no confidence.

The rally was part of the PTI’s struggle to achieve “real freedom” and deliver the nation from the “slavery” of the “US-backed” coalition government. Khan had accused the coalition government of coming to power through a “US-backed conspiracy”.

The Islamabad police at that time filed separate cases against 150 people, including Khan, Qureshi and other party leaders, over allegations of arson and vandalism in the federal capital.

Earlier this month, a judicial magistrate of Islamabad also acquitted Khan in two cases of vandalism during his party’s two long marches in 2022.

Judicial magistrate Shaista Kundi heard the pleas filed by the former prime minister for his acquittal in the cases registered at Islamabad’s Lohi Bhair and Sahala police stations and one related to his production in the court.

Separately, the Islamabad High Court on Monday accepted District and Sessions Judge Shahrukh Arjumand’s plea for the transfer of the Iddat case to another court, days after the complainant expressed a lack of confidence in the judge.

Khan and Bushra, 49, were sentenced to seven years in prison each on February 3 by a trial court for contracting the marriage during iddat, a mandatory period for a woman in Islam to wait before a second marriage after the death of her husband or divorce.

The case was filed by Bushra’s ex-husband, Khawar Maneka, against the couple in November 2023, alleging that they married without Bushra observing the mandatory waiting period of iddat. He asked the court to declare the marriage null and void.

The former first couple had challenged the verdict in Islamabad District and Sessions Court, where Judge Shahrukh Arjumand heard the appeals and reserved the verdict on May 23.

The couple had married in 2018, the year Khan went on to win elections and become prime minister. Bushra was ostensibly his spiritual guide, but the two developed affection for each other during their meetings. She got a divorce from her husband of 28 years, with whom she had five children.

She is the third wife of Khan, a former cricketing hero who during his heydays of sporting career, had a playboy reputation.


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