Published By: Pragati Pal
Last Updated: September 04, 2023, 20:30 IST
A special court judge, who has been hearing bail pleas of jailed former prime minister Imran Khan and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf: Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi in a case related to the alleged disclosure of state secrets, has gone on leave until September 8, according to media reports on Monday.
Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain on Saturday postponed till Monday the hearing of post-arrest bail applications of Khan and Qureshi in the case since the validity of the special court was under scrutiny in the Islamabad High Court.
On Monday, when 70-year-old Khan’s legal team arrived at the court premises, they found out that Judge Zulqarnain was on leave for a week due to his wife’s illness, Geo News reported.
Khan’s lawyer Naeem Haider Panjotha said that when the legal team arrived at the court premises, they found out that Judge Zulqarnain was on leave for a week, Dawn newspaper reported.
Subsequently, the legal team reached the courtroom of Judge Raja Javad Abbas and urged him to hear the bail plea. To which, the judge replied that he could not hear the case as he was not the duty judge.
“There is no notification of the duty judge of the Official Secrets Act. If the Islamabad High Court can mark it, only then I can hear it,” Judge Abbas said. “I can hear cases of 24 courts as a duty judge but not to the extent of the Official Secrets Act.” Last month, ATC-I Judge Zulqarnain was given an additional charge of the special court established under the Official Secrets Act to hear matter related to the diplomatic cipher that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) said was misplaced and used by Khan for political purposes.
The purported cipher (secret diplomatic cable) contained an account of a meeting between US State Department officials, including Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu, and Pakistani envoy Asad Majeed Khan last year.
Of late, Khan has come under increased scrutiny following the publication of a purported copy of the secret cable by the US media outlet The Intercept, with many in the previous government led by Shehbaz Sharif pointing fingers at the PTI chief for being the source of the leak.
Qureshi, 67-year-old former foreign minister, was arrested under the Official Secrets Act for violating the secrecy of the official cable sent by the Pakistani embassy in the US to the foreign office when he was the foreign minister.
Khan, who served as the country’s prime minister until April last year, currently faces around 180 cases. These cases primarily stem from incidents that occurred following the sacking of the Lahore corps commander’s house on May 9.
Khan’s three-year sentence in the Toshakhana corruption case was suspended by a high court, which ordered his release from jail last week, but the embattled former premier’s remand was on Wednesday extended till September 13 by the special court in cipher case.
The same day, Khan approached the IHC against the appointment of anti-terrorism court Judge Zulqarnain to the special court established to hear cases filed under the Official Secrets Act.
He filed a post-arrest bail plea in the special court, which had been fixed for hearing on September 2, with notices issued to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and other relevant authorities. However, on September 2, the hearings on the bail pleas of Khan and Qureshi were adjourned till today.
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – PTI)