- After about two hours, Imran Khan left the FIA headquarters.
- A day before, the FIA had interrogated Shah Mehmood Qureshi for two hours.
- Azam Khan described Ciphergate as a “premeditated conspiracy”.
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Tuesday questioned Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan for nearly two hours in a case related to the Cablegate saga – a cipher allegedly containing details of threats made by the United States against the previous government.
At a public meeting in Islamabad on March 27, 2022, Khan waved a letter claiming it was evidence of a US-backed “international conspiracy” to topple his government.
Last week, the probe agency summoned the ousted prime minister – who was removed from office through a no-confidence motion in April last year – today (Tuesday) after the Lahore High Court (LHC) withdrew the stay order against the FIA’s call-up notice to Khan in the audio leak case involving US diplomatic cables.
The FIA launched a probe against the former prime minister for allegedly making public a secret diplomatic cable and keeping it in his possession.
As per details, the PTI chief appeared before a joint investigation team of federal investigative officers at its headquarters. After a long questioning of about two hours, the ousted Prime Minister left the FIA headquarters.
A day earlier, the FIA questioned PTI vice-chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi for nearly two hours in connection with its ongoing probe into the controversial US ciphers.
Qureshi appeared before an eight-member team headed by FIA Islamabad zone director Rana Abdul Jabbar, as he was called – because he is one of the central characters in the cipher saga due to his position as foreign minister during PTI’s tenure.
Officers from various FIA wings and one Grade-19 officer each from three different intelligence institutes were also present during the interrogation of the PTI vice-chairman.
The cipher drama took a new turn last week when Azam Khan, the then principal secretary to former prime minister Khan, “recorded” a statement, terming the US ciphers a “conspiracy” used by the former prime minister to “manipulate a story against the establishment and the opposition”.
Sources said that Azam, who was “missing” since last month, recorded his statement under CrPC 164 before a magistrate.
Responding to the developments, Imran termed Azam an “honest man” and said he would not accept the statement unless he heard the bureaucrat say it himself.
However, PTI termed the statement quoted by the former Principal Secretary on the US cipher conspiracy as “unverified” and said it was a “bunch of contradictions”.
The controversy first surfaced on March 27, 2022, when Imran – days before he stepped down – presented a letter, claimed to be a cipher from a foreign nation, that mentioned his government should be removed from power.
He did not reveal the contents of the letter or name the country that sent it. But a few days later, he named America and said that Donald Lu, the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, has demanded his removal.
The cipher was about the meeting of former Pakistan ambassador to the US Asad Majeed with Lu.
The former prime minister claimed that he was reading material from the cipher, adding that “all would be forgiven for Pakistan if Imran Khan was removed from power”.
Then on 31 March, the NSC took up the matter and decided to issue a “stern demarche” to the country for “blatant interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs”.
Later, after he was removed, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif convened a meeting of the NSC, which concluded that it had found no evidence of a foreign conspiracy in the cipher.
Months later, two audio leaks took the internet by storm and shocked the public following these events. The former prime minister, the then federal minister Asad Umar and Azam can reportedly be heard discussing the US cipher and how to use it to their advantage.
On 30 September, the federal cabinet took note of the matter and constituted a committee to examine the contents of the audio leak.
In October, the cabinet gave the go-ahead to initiate action against the former prime minister and handed over the case to the FIA.
Once the FIA was tasked with probing the matter, it summoned Imran, Omar and other party leaders, but the PTI chief challenged the summons and obtained a stay order from the court.
On 18 July, the Lahore High Court withdrew the stay order against the call-up notice to Imran by the FIA.
The FIA then issued summons to Khan, Umar and Qureshi.