Cipher case: Judge goes on leave

On Monday, it was revealed that Special Court Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain, who is presiding over the cipher case involving PTI Chairman Imran Khan and Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi, is currently on leave.

The cipher case revolves around a diplomatic document that was allegedly missing from Imran Khan’s possession, with PTI claiming it contained a threat from the United States to remove Imran from power. Proceedings against Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the former foreign minister, are also underway within the same case.

Following the suspension of Imran Khan’s three-year jail term in the Toshakhana case, it became known that he was in judicial remand in the cipher case, which was extended until September 13 last week.

On the same day, Imran Khan approached the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to challenge the appointment of Judge Zulqarnain, who is an anti-terrorism court (ATC) judge, to the special court responsible for hearing cases under the Official Secrets Act. He also filed a post-arrest bail plea in the special court, with notices issued to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and other relevant authorities.

However, the hearings for the bail pleas of Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi were adjourned until the present day due to the IHC’s ongoing review of the special court’s validity.

Imran Khan’s lawyer, Naeem Haider Panjotha, revealed that when the legal team arrived at the court premises, they learned that Judge Zulqarnain was on leave for a week, with the judge’s leave lasting until September 9 (Saturday).

In response, Judge Abbas explained that he lacked the jurisdiction to hear the case and could only do so if granted authority by the IHC, emphasizing that the cipher case was distinct from other matters being handled by the courts.

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