The federal cabinet has accused former prime minister Imran Khan of sacrificing key national interests for political gains by giving fictitious meaning to a diplomatic cypher, saying the ex-premier has violated his oath and the “Official Secrets Act”.
The high-level huddle, chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday, also noted that the copy of the diplomatic cypher was missing from the records of the Prime Minister’s House, saying that the copy was the property of the PM House.
While declaring the theft of the cypher from the records a serious matter, the cabinet formed a special committee of the cabinet to determine legal action against all those allegedly involved, including Imran Khan, ex-principal secretary to PM Azam Khan and senior ministers of the then PTI government.
Meanwhile, the meeting also discussed the issue of audio leaks in detail and endorsed the decision of the National Security Committee (NSC) to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter.
On Wednesday, the NSC okayed the formation of a body to investigate audio leaks.
Amid the worsening economic situation and political turmoil, the country was recently embroiled in the audio leaks controversy, which is still going on as audio leaks involving current and previous rulers continue to surface with frequent intervals.
Initially, audio featuring PM Shehbaz’s conversation with several high-profile people emerged, which the premier and his party members not only owned but presented it as proof that there was nothing illegal in the audio record
Later on, the audio conversations of deposed PM Imran Khan with his principal secretary and party leaders surfaced, which too was owned and presented as proof that the cypher was a reality and it was time that the cypher issue was thoroughly probed.
Meanwhile, PM Shehbaz said that the audio leak has totally busted Imran Khan’s “foreign conspiracy narrative”. On the other hand, the PTI leadership has said that the PTI government acted sensibly and did not name the country – the US – until the then cabinet declassified the cypher.
However, in the midst of accusations and demands for further probes, what has been compromised is the security of the highest office of the land and reservations have been expressed as to who would want to visit a country where even the PM House was not safe for communication.
During the federal cabinet meeting, the participants expressed serious concern over the fact that the audios of Imran Khan, Azam Khan and other persons related to the diplomatic cypher have exposed the “criminal conspiracy” of the former government and ex-PM.
The cabinet noted that the diplomatic cypher was given fictitious meanings to sacrifice key national interests for political gain and stolen after committing ‘fraud, forgery, and fabrication’. “This is a serious violation of the constitutional oath, other relevant laws, regulations, especially the ‘Official Secrets Act’,” the cabinet added.
“It is an unforgivable crime against the state by giving priority to political interests over key state interests,” the cabinet statement said. “Therefore, according to the constitution, law and regulations, it is necessary to investigate the whole matter carefully and to determine the responsible parties and punish them strictly according to the law.”
The official statement further stated that a detailed briefing was given to the cabinet on cypher issue and it was revealed that the copy of the diplomatic cypher was missing from the PM House’s records.
It added that the cabinet was told that although there was a record of the receipt of the cypher sent to the former premier at the PM House, its copy was not available in the record.
The meeting declared that “theft of diplomatic cypher” from records was a serious matter. After a detailed consultation, it said, the cabinet formed a special committee of the cabinet which will determine the legal action against all those involved in it. The cabinet committee will include the representatives of the coalition parties in the government, besides the ministers of foreign affairs, interior, and law.
Meanwhile, the cabinet condemned in the strongest terms the harassment, intimidation and mob harassment of Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb by the PTI workers in London.
Also, on the recommendation of the ministry of law and justice, the cabinet approved the filing of an explanatory presidential reference on the recommendation of the PM regarding the previous decision of the Supreme Court about the construction of the Reko Diq project of the federal government and the Balochistan government.
Along with this, the statement said, clarification will also be sought regarding the approval of Foreign Investment (Protection & Promotion), Bill 2022 in the reference.
Moreover, on the recommendation of the ministry of interior, the cabinet approved the new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) 2022 for the inclusion and exclusion of names in the Exit Control List (ECL).
Hitting hard at Imran Khan over the cypher controversy, PM Shehbaz wrote on his official Twitter handle, saying: “A former PM [Imran Khan] conspired with his aides to twist a routine diplomatic cypher for his selfish political motives knowing well this would harm Pak national interest.”