Islamabad, Jan 24 (PTI) Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US and a key witness has rejected the mention of the words “conspiracy” or “threat” in the secret document at the centre of controversy in the cipher case.
Involving jailed former prime minister Imran Khan and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who also is a senior leader from his party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), the cipher case pertains to a piece of paper, purported to be a diplomatic cable -- the cipher -- that Khan had waved at a public rally on March 27, 2022.
Naming the US, Khan had claimed that it was ‘evidence’ of an “international conspiracy” to topple his government. Khan and Qureshi, accused of mishandling it for political purposes, were indicted in December 2023 and both have pleaded not guilty.
During a hearing on Tuesday at the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, former Ambassador Asad Majeed gave a first hand account to the special court Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain about his meeting with a top US government official in March 2022, The News newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Majeed was the ambassador of Pakistan to the United States from January 2019 to March 2022.
Bringing out details about the meeting in public domain for the first time, Majeed said, on March 7, 2022, Assistant Secretary of the US Department of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu was invited to a working lunch, which was a pre-arranged meeting hosted at Pakistan House in Washington.
Communication took place in the meeting, so a cipher telegram was sent to the foreign secretary. The deputy head of Mission and defence attaché were also present in the meeting.
“In the meeting, both sides knew that minutes of the meeting were being taken. The conversation in the meeting was reported to Islamabad in cipher telegram. There was no reference to the words ‘threat’ or ‘conspiracy’ in the secret cipher telegram,” he said.
Majeed further told the court that he was also called to the National Security Committee meeting. “And in the meeting, it was decided to issue demarche. I had proposed to issue the demarche.” He said that the cipher issue was a setback for Pakistan-US relations.
Majeed is one of the 25 witnesses who have recorded their statements in the cipher case, which was launched on August 15 last year.
Earlier on Monday, Pakistan’s former foreign secretary Sohail Mahmood said that the copy of the controversial cipher had not been returned to the foreign ministry until his retirement in September 2022. PTI SH NPK NPK