JAILED former prime minister Imran Khan admitted “misplacing” a confidential diplomatic cable as he was interrogated by Pakistan’s top investigative agency.
Khan, 70, sentenced to a three-year jail term earlier this month in a corruption case, was grilled at the Attock prison for wrongful use of the classified document, according to media reports on Sunday (27).
The cable was the document Khan had for long mentioned as evidence of a US-backed conspiracy to remove him as the prime minister last year.
He had waved a document at a rally days before his ouster as prime minister in April 2022, saying it was proof of foreign conspiracy.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman’s interrogation comes days after he was booked under the Official Secrets Act for making public the content of a confidential diplomatic cable from the country’s embassy in the US.
The counter-terrorism wing (CTW) of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Saturday (26) visited the former prime minister in the jail, media reports said.
During the interrogation, Khan admitted to losing the cypher, saying he couldn’t recall where he kept it, The News newspaper reported.
Khan also denied that the paper he waved at a public gathering last year was the diplomatic cable.
“The paper I gestured in the public were cabinet meeting minutes and not cypher,” the paper quoted Khan as saying.
The investigation agency had registered the case against Khan and PTI vice-chairman and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, after ascertaining their involvement in misusing the cypher and its misplacement following a probe.
The purported cypher contained an account of a meeting between US State Department officials, including assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu and then Pakistani envoy Asad Majeed Khan.
The cricketer-turned-politician came under increased scrutiny following the publication of a purported copy of the secret cable by the US media outlet The Intercept, with many in the previous government led by Shehbaz Sharif pointing fingers at the PTI chief for being the source of the leak.
Former interior minister Rana Sanaullah has said that if Khan had indeed lost the copy of the cypher provided to him, it would constitute a crime under the Official Secrets Act.
Citing the cypher, The Intercept, in a report published earlier this month, said, “The US State Department encouraged the Pakistani government in a March 7, 2022, meeting to remove Imran Khan as prime minister over his neutrality on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
The publication, however, also stated that it made extensive efforts to authenticate the document, but “given the security climate in Pakistan, independent confirmation from sources in the Pakistani government was not possible”.
The US State Department had said it could not verify the authenticity of the document.
The cypher case against Khan became serious after his principal secretary stated before a magistrate and the FIA that the former prime minister had used the US cypher for his political gains’ and to avert a no-confidence vote against him last year.
On August 5, Khan was arrested and sent to Attock Jail after a trial court found him guilty in the Toshakhana corruption case.
Dozens of cases had been launched against Khan after his removal from office last year.