What is the cipher case?
The cipher case is a controversial case related to the disclosure of a classified cable sent to Islamabad by Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington in early 2022. The cable allegedly contained a threat from the United States to remove Imran Khan as prime minister if he did not cooperate with the US on the Afghan peace process. The cable was leaked to the media by an unknown source, triggering a political storm in Pakistan.
Former prime minister Imran Khan and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi were accused of leaking the cable and violating the Official Secrets Act. They were arrested in August 2022 and have been in jail since then. They have denied any involvement in the leak and claimed that they were being victimized by the current government and the army chief, who they alleged had conspired to oust them from power.
How did the court deliver the verdict?
The verdict was delivered by a special court established under the Official Secrets Act on Tuesday, January 30, 2024. The hearing was held at the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, where Imran Khan and Qureshi are lodged. The media and the public were not allowed to attend the hearing. The court sentenced both Imran Khan and Qureshi to 10 years in prison each for leaking state secrets. The court also imposed a fine of Rs 10 million on each of them.
The verdict comes shortly before the general elections scheduled for February 8, 2024, in which Imran Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), is participating despite facing a state crackdown and without an electoral symbol. The Election Commission of Pakistan stripped the PTI of the symbol on technical grounds that it had not held intra-party elections, a prerequisite for any party to take part in the vote.
What has been the reaction to the verdict?
The PTI has condemned the verdict and called it a sham and a travesty of justice. The party said that its legal team will challenge the decision in a higher court and seek the suspension of the sentence. The party also said that the verdict will not deter its supporters from voting for the PTI in the upcoming elections.
The verdict has also drawn criticism from human rights groups and opposition parties, who have expressed concern over the lack of transparency and due process in the case. They have accused the government and the military of using the case as a pretext to silence dissent and curb democracy in Pakistan. They have demanded the release of Imran Khan and Qureshi and the restoration of their political rights.
What are the implications of the verdict?
The verdict has added to the political uncertainty and instability in Pakistan, which is already facing multiple challenges, such as the economic crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, the security situation, and the regional dynamics. The verdict has also strained the relations between Pakistan and the US, which have been uneasy since the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban takeover. The verdict has also raised questions about the credibility and fairness of the upcoming elections, which are expected to be a close contest between the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the PTI.
The verdict has also cast a shadow over the legacy and future of Imran Khan, who was once hailed as a charismatic and popular leader who promised to bring a new era of change and accountability in Pakistan. Imran Khan, a former cricket star and philanthropist, rose to power in 2018 after leading a massive anti-corruption movement and mobilizing the youth and the urban middle class. He vowed to end the corruption and misrule of the previous governments and to make Pakistan a welfare state. However, his tenure was marred by controversies, allegations, and confrontations with the opposition, the judiciary, the media, and the military. He was ousted in 2022 after losing a vote of confidence in the parliament, following a rift with the army chief over the Afghan policy.