Imran Khan can be arrested if fails to cooperate in cipher probe: Pakistan's Interior Minister 

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) might arrest Khan, the chief of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, if he fails to cooperate with their investigation into the cipher case, the minister sa
Former prime minister of Pakistan Imran Khan. (Photo | AP)
Former prime minister of Pakistan Imran Khan. (Photo | AP)

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Thursday warned Imran Khan that he might be arrested if the former prime minister fails to cooperate with the investigation into the leaking of national secrets in what has widely come to be known as the ‘cipher case.'

Sanaullah's warning came a day after a close aide of Khan accused his ex-boss of using a diplomatic cable from Pakistan's mission in the US to build an “anti-establishment narrative”.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) might arrest Khan, the chief of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, if he fails to cooperate with their investigation into the cipher case, the minister said.

Sanaullah in the press conference lent credence to the confessional statement by Khan's ex-principal secretary Azam Khan accusing the 70-year-old cricketer-turned-politician of using a cipher from Pakistan's mission in the US to gain political mileage and build an “anti-establishment narrative” on the back of the “confidential” document and assailed the former prime minister.

The FIA in a notice to Khan asked the PTI chief to appear before the bureau here on July 25 in connection with the cipher probe, Dawn News reported.

"If he does not cooperate during the inquiry stage, he could face possible arrest. Following the investigation, the FIA will make recommendations based on evidence regarding those who are complicit and against whom criminal cases should be filed,” Sanaullah said.

In a surprising turn of events, Azam Khan, who had been missing since last month, has returned home after a letter attributed to him in relation to his statement against Khan emerged on social media.

However, his lawyer Qasim Wadud told Dawn News that his client was “not in a condition” to comment on the statement being attributed to him.

Azam Khan went missing on June 15 and a case regarding his kidnapping was registered by the Islamabad police.

A petition seeking the recovery of Azam Khan is also pending before the Islamabad High Court.

Speaking to the media during a court appearance on Wednesday, the cricketer-turned-politician said: “Azam Khan is an honest man; until I hear [this] from him myself, I will not believe it.”

The statement attributed to Azam Khan claimed that the PTI chief was allegedly “euphoric” after seeing the cipher and decided to use it to build an “anti-establishment narrative” on the back of a "blunder" committed by the US.

“The cipher copy was retained by Imran Khan and the next day (March 10) when he asked for it, Imran Khan replied that he has misplaced it,” the confession statement said, adding that the PTI chief did not return the original cipher despite repeated requests.

The interior minister had on Wednesday termed the narrative behind the cipher "fabricated'" and claimed that Khan committed a crime and ex-foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was an “abettor”.

The interior minister explained that since the cipher was a confidential document, its disclosure was unlawful and a crime.

“This case is similar to the proceedings initiated against former US President Donald Trump for mishandling classified documents,” he added.

Asked whether this case would also be referred to a "special court" as others being conducted under the Official Secrets Act, he replied in the affirmative.

Khan in a post on Twitter claimed he would share “uncensored details” of how this conspiracy unfolded to overthrow a government.

“I assure you, it will be more gripping than any drama on TV,” he quipped.

Meanwhile, the US has once again rebuffed the allegations levelled by Imran Khan regarding the cypher following fresh claims by a close aide of the ex-prime minister.

State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller was asked on Wednesday to comment on the confessional statement recorded by Azam Khan.

Responding to a question, Miller said: "I don't know how many times I can respond to this question from the podium and give the same answer, which is that these allegations, such as they are, are completely unfounded.

" Miller also clarified that the US doesn't get involved in domestic political issues and doesn't take sides on political parties in Pakistan or any other country.

Imran Khan was ousted by the National Assembly when he lost a vote of no confidence in April 2022, in which he alleged that Washington got involved after he visited Moscow.

Imran Khan has alleged that the US orchestrated a plan to remove him from office and brandished the cypher at a public rally to back his claims.

The US has time and again denied such allegations, terming them "categorically false".

Imran Khan travelled to Moscow in February last year and met President Vladimir Putin on the eve of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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