Former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his then-foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, have been formally charged by a special court in Pakistan for allegedly breaching state secrecy laws. The charges are related to their alleged involvement in revealing what Khan referred to as US interference in his removal by political opponents last year.
The indictments against Khan and Qureshi were lodged by Special Court Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain in the so-called ‘cipher case.’ The charges revolve around their alleged unlawful retention and public disclosure of a classified document, which Khan’s side is said to have had the necessary cipher to decode. It has been reported by Pakistani media that other individuals, including Khan’s aide Muhammad Azam Khan and former Federal Minister Asad Umar, may also face charges as part of the ongoing investigation.
The document in question is a diplomatic cable sent by then-Pakistani Ambassador to the US, Asad Majeed Khan, after his meeting with two senior US Department of State officials in March 2022. According to various media sources, including The Intercept, the cable contained criticism from Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, Donald Lu, towards Imran Khan’s neutral stance on the Ukraine conflict. The prime minister had refrained from taking sides, unlike the United States and its European allies.
During the meeting, Lu allegedly discussed the no-confidence vote against Khan, stating that if it were to succeed, “all will be forgiven in Washington,” while if Khan stayed in power, Islamabad would face “isolation.” However, the US government denied that Lu took a position on who should be in power in Pakistan.
Following the meeting, Imran Khan was ousted from power and has since faced multiple charges, including those related to terrorism and corruption. He has claimed that his political opponents aim to prevent him from participating in the upcoming parliamentary elections with Washington’s approval. Interestingly, after Khan’s removal, US-Pakistani relations witnessed a period of improved relations.
In July, Islamabad received a surprise bailout of $3 billion from the International Monetary Fund. The Intercept reported that the US supported the bailout on the condition that Pakistan would supply Ukraine with munitions worth $900 million. However, the Pakistani government has denied these allegations, stating that no arm sales to Ukraine have taken place.
The indictment and charges against Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi highlight the ongoing tension and alleged interference in Pakistan’s political landscape. As the investigation continues, more individuals may face charges.
Overall, this case adds yet another layer of complexity to the already intricate political landscape of Pakistan and raises questions about the extent of foreign interference in the country’s affairs.