The special court judge, Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain, has granted permission to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan to have phone conversations with his sons while he is currently detained in the cipher case. The one-page written order instructs the Adiala jail superintendent to facilitate Khan’s phone conversations with his sons. This ruling pertains to the cipher case proceedings held in the special court established under the Official Secrets Act of 2023.
The former Prime Minister, whose government was removed following a no-confidence motion in April 2022, filed a plea with the special court on September 11. In this plea, he sought to hold the Attock jail superintendent in contempt of court for not allowing him to speak with his sons, despite court orders that had been issued on the matter.
At the time Khan submitted the plea, he was in judicial custody at Attock jail until September 13 in connection with the cipher case, following his arrest on August 5 after a conviction in the Toshakhana case.
Previously, the special court, which deals with cases registered under the Official Secrets Act, had granted Khan permission to communicate with his sons. However, the PTI Chairman alleged a violation of the court’s order in his plea against the Attock jail superintendent.
The Attock jail authorities, in their response to the contempt of court petition, argued that jail rules do not permit accused individuals facing charges under the Official Secrets Act to have phone conversations. According to the superintendent, the Prisoners Act of 1978 prohibits prisoners from making calls to foreign telephone numbers.
Nonetheless, the court emphasized that the concerns of the PTI chairman’s family and his constitutional rights could not be overlooked. The Adiala jail superintendent maintained that the jail manual does not permit accused individuals to have telephone conversations and communicate abroad.
During the hearing, the judge and Khan’s counsel, Shiraz Ahmed Ranjha, had an interesting exchange. Khan’s lawyer requested that he be provided with a bicycle for exercise in jail. In response, the judge humorously remarked that he did not want the bicycle to be misused or driven by the jail superintendent. The lawyer proposed appointing a supervisor to oversee the bicycle’s use if concerns existed.
The judge stressed the importance of adhering to the jail manual for the security of an under-trial accused. When the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) regarding telephone conversations were presented to the court, the judge noted that the accused was not permitted to engage in phone calls as per its content.
However, Khan’s lawyer argued that the Official Secrets Act did not prohibit the accused from having telephone conversations with family members. He cited the Prisoner’s Rules, which allow meetings with a spouse and children for up to 12 hours in jail. The lawyer also contended that telephone conversations were permitted for other accused, emphasizing that all prisoners could make calls on Saturdays.
The lawyer urged the court to issue a show-cause notice to the Attock jail superintendent for providing inaccurate information. When asked to show written permission in the prison manual, the lawyer mentioned a decision from the Federal Shariat Court that supported Khan’s right to speak with his sons over the phone. As a result, the court authorized Khan to have phone conversations with his sons, granting this significant relief.