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LHC suspends FIA notice issued to Imran Khan for probe into cipher audio leak

The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday suspended the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) notice to PTI Chairman Imran Khan regarding an inquiry into the audio leaks regarding the controversial US cipher, which the former prime minister claims played an instrumental role in his ouster.

The premier investigation agency is investigating the audio leak purportedly featuring Imran, PTI leaders, and a top government officer who were discussing the cipher in the clip.

In the clip which surfaced in September, the PTI chief, his principal secretary Azam Khan and ex-minister Asad Umar could be heard discussing how to “play” with the cipher to give the impression of a “foreign conspiracy” and “build a narrative”.

The federal cabinet took notice of the matter and constituted a committee to probe the contents of the audio leak. Later, the cabinet also approved legal action against those involved in the matter.

Subsequently, the FIA had issued a notice to Imran directing him to appear before the agency.

On Monday, the former premier approached the LHC challenging FIA’s authority to investigate the audio leaks. He said that the inquiry initiated was “illegal, unlawful, and without any authority and jurisdiction”.

Earlier today, Justice Asjad Javed Ghural took up the petition for hearing after removing objections placed on it by the LHC Registrar’s Office.

The hearing

During the hearing, Imran’s lawyer Salman Safdar contended that the FIA had not mentioned whether it had summoned Imran as a witness in the case or a suspect.

Here, Justice Ghural asked: “Has an inquiry on how the audio was leaked been initiated? Have the people who were in control there been investigated?”

Safdar replied that the FIA had “picked up” the audio from the internet and had begun investigating it. He also claimed that the agency was being used for pursuing “politically motivated” cases.

To that, the court pointed out that a forensic audit of the audio should be first conducted to determine if the leaks were fake or not.

“Has everyone been included in the audio leaks case inquiry or is it just Imran Khan who is being investigated?” Justice Ghural asked.

In his response, Imran’s counsel said that an inquiry was underway against PTI leaders Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Asad Umar, and others.

Subsequently, the court suspended FIA’s notice to Imran and issued notices to FIA and other respondents in the case. The hearing was adjourned till December 19.

Imran’s petition

In his petition submitted in LHC on December 5, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, Imran named the interior secretary, FIA director general, and head of the inquiry team.

He contended that the notice sent to him by FIA “is absolutely unclear as to what offence, if any, he is being inquired for, adding that it was “silent about any criminal wrongdoing committed” by him.

The former prime minister maintained that he had already challenged the matter in the Supreme Court, alleging that the case was “politically motivated” and was aimed at harassing him.

He said his “political adversaries” had “released and circulated” the “manipulated audios” for “ulterior motives”.

The PTI chief also argued in his petition that the agency was being used “as a tool to pressurise and blackmail” him. “This inquiry is a colourable exercise of power by the FIA being conducted in bad faith,” he said.

As an interim relief, Imran urged the court to “suspend the operation” of the FIA inquiry till his petition was addressed. He also prayed that the inquiry should be set aside and declare the FIA notice sent to him should be declared “illegal, unlawful and without lawful authority”.

Sources: 1,2,3,4,5,6

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