Qureshi Reiterates Innoncence In Cipher Controversy

Files petition in Islamabad High Court against continued physical remand in FIA custody, seeks transfer to judicial lockup

Qureshi Reiterates Innoncence In Cipher Controversy

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Saturday again distanced himself from the cipher controversy, reiterating that he neither illegally retained a copy of the diplomatic cable nor did he communicate its contents to any unauthorised individual even as party chief again told investigators that he had 'lost' his copy. 

Qureshi presented this argument in a petition filed before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on his behalf by Advocate Shoaib Shaheen on Saturday against his physical remand granted by the special Official Secrets Act court. Qureshi had been arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) from Islamabad last week on August 19 for his alleged role in the controversy.

FIA is currently investigating Qureshi in a case lodged under the Official Secrets Act for allegedly retaining a copy of the cipher on which the PTI attempted to build its political narrative while endearing the anti-American sentiments of the public. 

The others nominated in the case include PTI chief Imran Khan and General Secretary Asad Umar. 

Qureshi, who is currently in FIA's custody, argued in his petition that the allegations levelled against him were false, frivolous and concocted to politically victimise him. 

The PTI vice chairman said that while performing his duty as the foreign minister, he had only conveyed the message within the diplomatic cable received from Washington to then Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Qureshi went on to claim in his petition that his copy of the cipher remains in the Foreign Ministry since he never retained the document.

The former foreign minister stated that he had clarified this fact to the FIA.

"The record is indicative to the fact that the said cipher is available in the safe custody of the Foreign Office, Islamabad," stated the petition.

Extended custody

In his petition, Qureshi argued that FIA officials had interrogated him for about 24 hours. He was produced before the duty magistrate at the next date of hearing, who sent Qureshi on another day-long physical remand in FIA custody. 

After spending additional time in FIA custody, he was produced before a special judge who granted another four-day physical remand of the PTI leader. 

Upon completing the four-day remand, the FIA again produced Qureshi before the special judge and successfully obtained additional physical remand for three days.

"The petitioner (Qureshi) along with his counsels persistently argued before the Learned Judges that as per the alleged inquiry and FIR No.6/2023, the petitioner is not involved in the retention of the cipher," the petition contended.

Qureshi further emphasised that he never communicated either the cable or its contents to any unauthorised individual in any manner. 

The petition stated that the request for physical custody by the FIA to the Special Judge was not genuine per the agency's records. Still, despite this, the judges granted FIA physical remand on August 20, August 21 and August 25, respectively. 

Qureshi further stated in the petition that orders approving additional remand were illegal, unlawful, erroneous, without justification and against the law and facts, hence not sustainable in the eyes of the law.

"While passing the remand granting orders, the learned Judge committed material irregularities and illegality which caused in justice."

"The learned judge did not consider the alleged role of petitioner (Qureshi) in the FIR, wherein it has never been mentioned that petitioner retained the said cypher; rather, it has been allegedly mentioned that cypher is in the possession of someone else."

It further added that the FIA record is silent about the replacement of the role of retainer/possessor of the alleged cipher. 

"Moreover, the record is also silent with regard to the person who, after registration of FIR No.6/23, made disclosure that alleged cypher is in the possession of petitioner."

It further stated that Qureshi had voluntarily indicated the location of his copy of the confidential document to be in the safe custody of the foreign office and had never been retained by him. Despite that, Qureshi contended, the judge accepted the unlawful and unjustified request for physical custody.

"Despite the fact, the prosecutors remained failed to bring any iota of evidence or plausible justification for extension in remand of petitioner, the Learned Judge passed stereo order for extension of remand of a person has been the foreign minister of Pakistan," Qureshi's petition added. 

Qureshi urged the IHC to set aside the orders for physical custody and instead send him to a judicial lockup.

Imran maintains ignorance of cipher whereabouts

Meanwhile, an FIA team led by Deputy Director Ayaz Khan questioned Imran, who is currently incarcerated in the Attock Jail.

Geo News reported that during the hour-long questioning, Imran told FIA officials that he did not know where the secret document was, maintaining that it had been lost.

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain