The ex-Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, is facing legal scrutiny following the registration of a First Information Report (FIR) against him by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). This move has invoked Section 5 of the Official Secrets Act 1923, casting a legal cloud over Khan’s actions during his tenure.
After an extensive probe, the FIA’s counter-terrorism wing found grounds to charge the PTI Chairman for deliberately mishandling classified documents.
Government sources on Thursday confirmed the charges against Khan under the revised Section 5. Yet, in a move shrouded in secrecy, authorities refrained from publicly releasing a copy of the FIR.
Understanding Section 5’s Implications
Per the Official Secrets Act 1923’s Section 5, anyone found guilty of unauthorized communication, retention, or misuse of secret official codes, plans, models, documents, or information, particularly concerning defence or the state’s safety, could face severe consequences. If proven in court, punishments can range from two-year imprisonment to 14 years, and in specific grave cases, even a death sentence.
The crux of this section centres around:
- Unauthorized communication of secret information.
- Misusing the information to the detriment of state security.
- Inappropriately retaining or endangering said secret information.
- Receiving secret details with knowledge of its illegal transmission.
The Controversial Cipher Case
The seriousness of Khan’s situation was amplified after revelations from Azam Khan, his former principal secretary. In his statements before a magistrate and the FIA, Azam disclosed that Imran Khan leveraged a US cipher for personal political gains, chiefly to deflect a no-confidence vote against him.
Azam narrated how Khan was elated on receiving the cipher, even labeling it a “US blunder.” Reportedly, Khan envisioned using this coded communication to craft a narrative against the establishment and the opposition. Ignoring Azam’s cautionary advice, Khan allegedly showcased the US cipher at political gatherings, suggesting it as proof of foreign intervention in domestic politics, particularly in the opposition’s move for a no-confidence vote.