Pakistan’s Former Prime Minister Imran Khan got some rare good legal news when the Islamabad High Court suspended his three-year prison term for corruption and ordered him released on bail.
But his happiness didn’t last long. On Tuesday, a special court in Islamabad told officials to keep him in jail because of the “cypher case” and bring him before the court on Wednesday.
The cypher case is about a diplomatic document that reportedly went missing when it was in the hands of the former leader.
Khan, who is 70 years old, was found guilty by a trial court on August 5 of not reporting the money he made from selling gifts he got from foreign countries and leaders while he was prime minister from 2018 to 2022.
A vote of “no confidence” in him in parliament took him out of office last year. Since then, Khan has said over and over that the cypher, or diplomatic letter, shows that the powerful Pakistani military and the United States worked together to get rid of him.
Both the US and Pakistan’s military have said many times that they had nothing to do with it.
After Khan got his sentence at the beginning of this month, Pakistan’s Election Commission said he couldn’t run for office for at least five years. Some legal experts say that the ban still stands, even though a two-person bench of the Islamabad High Court ruled against him on Tuesday.
“It’s important to remember that only the sentence was put on hold, not the conviction,” lawyer Mirza Moiz Baig told Al Jazeera after the court’s decision.
“Since the Pakistani Constitution says that a convicted person can’t run for office, Khan can’t run for office,” Baig said. He also said that Khan can’t lead his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.
Khan and some of his closest aides are accused of sharing information on the “cypher” wire and breaking the Official Secrets Act, which was just passed a few months ago.
The supposed document was released by The Intercept, which said that a military official, not Khan’s PTI party, was the source of the secret cable. Khan has said that he no longer has the paper and that he doesn’t know where it is.
The PTI’s spokesman, Sayed Zulfiqar Bukhari, was happy with the Islamabad High Court’s decision to put Khan’s sentence on hold. He said that the party’s top goal is to get its leader back home.
But when a special court said the former prime minister had to stay in jail, Bukhari said he didn’t like it.
“It’s crazy that the Official Secrets Act is being pushed on everyone even though it has no legal basis. Are the harsh rules and amendments in this country meant to hurt only one person or group? Or does the law do anything for the people?” he wrote on X, which used to be called Twitter.
Khan’s lawyer from the PTI, Intazar Hussain Panjutha, also questioned why Khan was still in jail and said that “no plausible” reason could explain it.
“There is no proof that he did it. He told Al Jazeera that the sentence should have been put on hold from the start of their appeal. “There was no need to waste so much time because it wasn’t the final decision,” he said.
The lawyer also didn’t agree with the special court’s order to keep Khan in jail.
“This is an illegal order and, more importantly, a very strange one. There is no date anywhere, so it is impossible to know when it was passed. It has to be in black and white and show when this happened. “This is against the law, so we will fight it,” Panjutha said.
The Official Secrets Act, which is being used to hear the cypher case, was called into question this month when President Arif Alvi, who is a part of the PTI, said he had never signed the new laws.
The outgoing parliament gave Alvi the changes, which give the government more power to go after people who do things against the state and troops. But on August 20, the president said he had never approved them.
Pakistan’s Constitution says that a bill becomes law if the president doesn’t sign it or send it back with his comments or complaints within 10 days after it passes both houses of parliament.
Reza Ali, an expert on the Constitution, disagreed with the PTI’s stance. He said that the president’s post on social media is not enough to stop the changes from happening, and that the party must go to court to appeal.
“The government’s notice stays in the field, even though it is wrong, unless it is challenged in a court of law. Ali, a lawyer in Lahore, said that what the PTI said was not true.
“Since the court didn’t throw out the changes, it’s still good. Putting words about it on Twitter doesn’t make it invalid, and if the PTI is so sure, they should file a petition in court.”