ISLAMABAD, Jan 30: Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi have been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment each in the controversial cipher case by an anti-terrorism court.
The verdict was announced by Judge Abul Hasnat Zulqernain of the Official Secrets Act special court after proceedings in Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail. The judge stated the prosecution presented solid evidence to prove the crime.
Both accused were present during sentencing and refused to sign the statement questionnaire under CrPC Section 342, saying they will not sign without lawyers present. The judge instructed them to consult state attorneys and sign.
When called to the rostrum, Imran Khan remarked “I’m coming quickly, but you’re the one in a hurry. We have to stay in jail.” When asked to sign the statement, Imran said he wanted to dictate his response himself first.
After recording his 1 hour 20 minute statement, the judge simply asked Imran “Where is the cipher?” To which Imran replied it was in his office and he did not know.
Judge Zulqarnain then abruptly pronounced “I sentence you both to 10 years in prison” before departing court. The verdict came before Qureshi could record his statement.
The case centers around a diplomatic cable allegedly mishandled by Imran Khan, who claimed it contained US threats to remove him. His unverified accusations of conspiracy triggered controversy. The court recently indicted both for the second time on December 13.
The surprise verdict has sparked criticism and outrage over denial of legal rights. Analysts say the secret trial and harsh sentencing seem politically motivated to target opposition leaders. Imran Khan’s party has vowed to challenge the conviction.