Cipher case: Asad Umar ‘arrested’ from Islamabad

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Former secretary general PTI Asad Umar speaks during a press conference in Islamabad on May 24, 2023. — AFP
Former secretary general PTI Asad Umar speaks during a press conference in Islamabad on May 24, 2023. — AFP
  • Arrest comes day after PTI’s Qureshi was arrested in same case.
  • Qureshi, Khan booked after a FIR under Official Secrets Act.
  • Khan accused US of planning to remove him from office last year.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Asad Umar has been arrested from Islamabad in the cipher case, sources told Geo News on Sunday, as the authorities ramp up efforts to resolve the pressing matter.

Umar’s arrest comes a day after senior party leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi and PTI Chairman Imran Khan were arrested in connection with an investigation.

Khan — ousted via a parliamentary vote in April last year — had alleged on March 27, 2022, that Washington orchestrated a plan to remove him from office — and brandished the cipher at a public rally to back his claims. The US has time and again denied such allegations, terming them “categorically false”.

Both Qureshi and Khan were booked after a first information report (FIR) against the PTI chairman — registered by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) — invoked Section 5 of the Official Secrets Act 1923.

Umar has been a close aide of the PTI chief and formerly held the post of the party’s general secretary. However, following his arrest during the May 9 riots, in which PTI workers attacked government and military installations, he stepped down from his party positions.

“Given the current situation […] after May 9, it is not personally possible for me to continue performing my party leadership duties,” the former federal minister said.

“I am resigning as the secretary general of PTI and as the core committee member. One of the reasons why is […] I am outspoken and I cannot issue personal statements if I hold an office.”

Cable gate

The controversy first emerged on March 27, 2022, when Khan — just days before his ouster — brandished a letter, claiming that it was a cipher from a foreign nation, which mentioned that his government should be removed from power.

He did not reveal the contents of the letter nor mention the name of the nation that had sent it. But a few days later, he named the United States and said that Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Affairs Donald Lu had sought his removal.

The cipher was about former Pakistan ambassador to the US Asad Majeed’s meeting with Lu.

The former prime minister, claiming that he was reading contents from the cipher, said that “all will be forgiven for Pakistan if Imran Khan is removed from power”.

Then on March 31, the NSC took up the matter and decided to issue a “strong demarche” to the country for its “blatant interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan”.

Later, after his removal, then prime minister Shehbaz Sharif convened a meeting of the NSC, which came to the conclusion that it had found no evidence of a foreign conspiracy in the cipher.

The cipher case against the former premier became serious after his principal secretary Azam Khan stated before a magistrate as well as the FIA that the former PM had used the US cipher for his ‘political gains’ and to avert a vote of no-confidence against him.

The former bureaucrat, in his confession, said when he provided the ex-premier with the cipher, he was “euphoric” and termed the language a “US blunder”. The former prime minister, according to Azam, then said that the cable could be used for “creating a narrative against establishment and opposition”.

Azam said the US cipher was used in political gatherings by the PTI chairman, despite his advice to him to avoid such acts. He mentioned that the former prime minister also told him that the cipher could be used to divert the public’s attention towards “foreign involvement” in the opposition’s no-confidence motion.



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