Islamabad, Pakistan: It is a fact that no state can allow any state functionary to irresponsibly handle and disclose matters related to state secrets and national security. On the contrary, former prime minister Imran Khan waved the controversial and very important diplomatic cipher, in front of the general public to achieve political goals, which severely damaged Pakistan’s diplomatic relations.
The Cypher Case is very important as it involved the most important state figures and relevant appointments of the time as witnesses—people who were directly or indirectly involved and responsible for the mess they created on the instructions of the former prime minister. One of the co-accused –Azam Khan, a grade 22 Federal officer became an “approver” and instead of getting the punishment, he would live a normal life after even being a part of a conspiracy against the state of Pakistan. He was a part of the manipulation of cypher that played havoc with the State’s foreign relations.
The cypher case was conducted by fulfilling all the legal requirements and the accused were given the right to defend themselves through lawyers. Still, for some time now, this very important case has been delayed due to a change of 10 lawyers from the defender—Imran Khan, and due to using the delaying tactics of Imran’s lawyers of not appearing before the court. When Khan’s defense council continuously avoided appearing before the court, the state granted the defense lawyer to the accused so proceedings of the court could move on and the judicial proceedings could continue without delay.
The most important witness in this case, Personal Secretary Azam Khan, has admitted through his statement that he gave the cipher to Imran Khan, which he did not get back.
Another witness, Asad Majeed, has also submitted a statement in the court that there was no conspiracy and no threat in the cipher.
The third and most important witness, the then Foreign Secretary Sohail Mehmood, has also given a statement in the court about the cypher that there was no conspiracy or threat and the mishandling of the cypher caused considerable damage to the relations between Pakistan and America.
The audio leak of Azam Khan and Imran Khan makes the case very clear as both (Azam Khan and Imran) could be heard in the audio leak that they were planning to use the cypher to get political mileage.
This decision is very important because no one can be allowed to tamper with Pakistan’s national security and diplomatic relations. Today, the court has proved that no matter how important the state functionary is, no matter how much
influential he is, he will always be accountable to the law for whatever he has done against the state.
Cypher Case – The Public Perspectives
It has been documented in history that state secrecy always has multiple dimensions and breach of secrecy surely has domestic dimensions and consequences. Unauthorized disclosure of a confidential diplomatic document by a political leader is a breach of trust and confidentiality.
Diplomatic communications often contain sensitive information that must be handled carefully. The political manipulation or the usage of diplomatic/classified documents for political gains has been snubbed even in history.
Since the responsibility of taking care of the secrecy of the state is the responsibility of the permanent state—the bureaucracy. Former Foreign Secretary Sohail Khan and former Principal Secretary of PM Azam Khan were responsible for protecting the state interests but one of them became part of the conspiracy (Azam Khan) against Pakistan and none of the former bureaucrats got any punishment for their role to help Imran Khan to manipulate state secrets.
Azam Khan became approver against the political boss (Imran Khan) although an audio leak categorically confirmed that he was suggesting to the former prime minister Imran Khan how to manipulate the cypher for political gains while forgetting his (Azam Khan) responsibilities towards the state of Pakistan. Azam Khan who should have been on the list of “co-accused” became “approver” and appeared as a “witness” against the former prime minister and foreign minister.
Hereunder is the audio leak of Azam Khan with Imran Khan in which both are conspiring against Pakistan:
Full transcript of Imran Khan’s alleged conversation with Azam Khan
Imran Khan: OK, so now let’s just play with it. We don’t need to name America. We will just play over it and say that the date was already there.
Azam Khan: Sir, I was thinking…that we should hold a meeting on this cypher issue. If you might remember, the ambassador mentioned at the last of the letter that we should issue a demarche. If you still don’t want to issue a demarche, because I thought over it last night….how can we cover this? Let’s call a meeting of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Foreign Secretary (Sohail Mahmood). There, we will ask Shah Mahmood Qureshi to read out the letter. So whatever he will tell us, I will type it down and convert it into [meeting] minutes that the foreign minister said this and the foreign secretary said this. After this, we will write the analysis as we deem fit, so it becomes part of the record. In the analysis, we will say that the language used [in the letter] in diplomatic norms is considered a threat …….and things like that. See, the minutes [of the meeting] are in my hand, we can draft them according to our wishes.
Imran Khan: So whom should we call in this meeting? Shah Mahmood [foreign minister], you [Azam], I [Imran], and Sohail [foreign secretary].
Azam Khan: [Yes,] that’s it.
Imran Khan: Alright then, let’s hold this meeting tomorrow.
Azam Khan: [So see, if we do this] then things will come on record. Right now, he is consulate for the state [sic] and when he will read it out, I will copy them easily so it will become part of the record. You should also call the foreign secretary so that this thing can be highlighted at the bureaucratic level, not just the political one. You understand what I’m saying.
Imran Khan: The ambassador wrote it himself
Azam Khan: we don’t have the copy right now. How did they take it [cable] out?
Imran Khan: This was raised from here. He did it. But anyhow, it’s a foreign conspiracy.
An example for the future?
Distorting facts and inciting the public against political opposition and other institutions through the use of false or misleading information is a form of manipulation and undermines democracy. It leads to a polarized and divided society, erodes public trust, and fuels violence.
Imran Khan used this tool to create hate among the youth of the country and on May 9, 2023, Mutiny had such manipulations behind that gory day. The 10-year imprisonment of Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi would be an example for future leaders that classified and secret documents must not be used for gaining political ends.
The public humiliation that Azam Khan is facing will continue and he would not live a normal life and would always avoid public gatherings because he was also a part of a conspiracy against the State. No doubt he avoided legal punishment after becoming “approver” but the stigma of being a traitor and a person who manipulated secret documents for personal gains would remain with him.
Why the punishment was announced?
Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi used a classified document to gain political benefits.
By claiming that “cypher was not shared with Foreign Minister”, Shah Mahmood Qureshi created a divide in the institutions.
Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood used a secret document to infiltrate Pakistan’s diplomatic circles. Today diplomats all over the world are reluctant to trust Pakistani diplomats.
PTI lawyers had an opportunity till 11 o’clock to file their writ and stay the decision, but they deliberately missed it because PTI had plans to use this decision to gain political mileage in the forthcoming General Elections of 2024.