SC rejects plea seeking probe of cipher at centre of Imran’s ‘foreign conspiracy’ claims – Pakistan

The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected all three pleas seeking an investigation into a cipher — presented by PTI Chairman Imran Khan in March 2022 as evidence of a “foreign conspiracy” to oust him.

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Justice Qazi Faez Isa pronounced the verdict today after conducting an in-chamber hearing on pleas filed by Advocate Zulfiqar Ahmed Bhutta, Syed Tariq Badar and Advocate Naeemul Hasan last year.

The petitions had sought the constitution of a “high-powered commission” to probe the alleged “foreign conspiracy” that Imran claimed was hatched to topple his government.

They had named the Federation of Pakistan through the law and justice secretary, the prime minister, and the cabinet secretary as respondents in the case.

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However, the applications had been returned earlier over objections by the Registrar’s Office. Subsequently, the petitioner filed fresh pleas in the court against these objections.

It is a common practice of the court office to sometimes return petitions by raising objections like questioning why the petitioner has approached the apex court directly without exhausting other available forums first. Such rejections are usually challenged by the petitioners and are taken up by a judge in his chamber as nominated by the chief justice.

Earlier, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood recused himself from a hearing scheduled for Jan 24 and had sent the pleas back to the top judge.

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The hearing

At the outset of today’s hearing, Justice Isa asked: “Is dealing with foreign affairs the job of the court? Did Imran Khan make any decision to investigate the matter as the prime minister?”

He added: “Imran Khan had all the powers to have an investigation conducted. All authorities are under the prime minister.”

He asked: “What should the court do in the cipher’s matter?”

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When the petitioner’s counsel termed the investigations a “matter of fundamental rights”, Justice Isa asked: “What impact did the cipher have on your or my life? There is no matter of fundamental rights in this case.”

He further said: “Do you want that the entire world’s ciphers are sent to the Supreme Court instead of the foreign ministry? If there is any attack in the future, would the Supreme Court announce war?”

At one point during the hearing, Justice Isa said if the government wants, it can make public the ciphers, but if anyone else does it, it would be a violation of the [Officials] Secret Act.

He further remarked: “If the prime minister wants, he can use his authority to end relations with the world.”

Justice Isa said, “If someone is not even eligible to become the prime minister, there is a remedy for this as well. Whoever’s job it is, let them do it. The judiciary cannot interfere in the executive’s matters.”

Upon the petitioner’s lawyer saying that the “court has to see who is doing what”, the judge said that “elders have forbidden me from seeing anything”.

Cablegate

The controversy surrounding the no-confidence motion against Imran took a dramatic turn when the embattled former premier brandished a letter at a rally on March 27 — days before his ouster — claiming it contained evidence of a “foreign conspiracy” hatched to topple his government.

Imran had kept mum about the contents of the letter when he first unveiled it but he spilled the beans days later by naming the United States when the exit of his government appeared imminent.

Imran’s allegation that the US spearheaded his exit from power was based on a cipher received from Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Asad Majeed, in which the envoy had reported about a meeting with Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Affairs Donald Lu.

Majeed had reportedly said that Donald Lu warned that Imran Khan’s continuation in office, who was set to face a vote of no confidence, would have repercussions on bilateral relations.

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The US was said to be annoyed with Imran over his “independent foreign policy” and visit to Moscow.

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The Pentagon and the State Department have repeatedly rejected the accusations, saying there was no veracity to them.

The National Security Committee (NSC), which includes all services chiefs as well as the head of Pakistan’s top intelligence agency, took up the matter on March 31 with then-premier Imran in the chair. The forum decided to issue a “strong demarche” to a country that it did not name over what it termed as “blatant interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan”.

It had also termed the interference “unacceptable under any circumstances” and said the language used in the communique was undiplomatic.

While the forum had stopped short of calling the interference a conspiracy at the time, another meeting of the NSC was held on April 22 with newly elected premier Shehbaz Sharif in the chair, and which included the same military chiefs who attended the March 31 session.

During its second meeting, the NSC statement said it “reaffirmed the decisions of the last NSC meeting” and explicitly went on to add that it found no evidence of a foreign conspiracy.

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