Islamabad | Pakistan's former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, a close aide of jailed former prime minister Imran Khan, was arrested from his house here on Saturday under the Official Secrets Act in connection with the leakage of a confidential diplomatic cable. Qureshi, 67, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party's Vice Chairman, was taken to the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) headquarters after the arrest.
Qureshi was arrested under the Official Secrets Act for violating the secrecy of the official cable sent by the Pakistani embassy in the US to the foreign office when he was the foreign minister.
Former premier Khan has for long mentioned the missing cable as evidence of a “foreign conspiracy” to remove him as the prime minister in April last year.
A first information report (FIR) registered against Qureshi by the FIA refers to the matter and invokes Sections 5 (wrongful communication of information) and 9 (attempt to commit or abet the commission of an offence under this Secrets Act) of the Official Secrets Act read with Section 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
The development came only two days after PTI chief Khan was named in an FIR registered by the FIA under Section 5 of the Official Secrets Act 1923 in the case.
“PTI vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi has been illegally arrested once again,” the PTI said in social media post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Qureshi was foreign minister when the issue of the diplomatic cable erupted.
The purported cipher (secret diplomatic cable) contained an account of a meeting between US State Department officials, including Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu, and Pakistani envoy Asad Majeed Khan last year.
PTI General Secretary Omar Ayub confirmed Qureshi’s arrest by saying that he was arrested shortly after reaching home after addressing a press conference.
“Had hoped that the reign of lawlessness would have ended after the exit of the fascist PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement) government, but it appears that this caretaker government wants to break the records of their predecessor fascist government,” Ayub said.
Interim Interior Minister Sarfaraz Bugti confirmed Qureshi’s arrest on Geo News, saying the former foreign minister had been taken into custody in connection with the cipher case.
“He (Qureshi) is nominated in the case and will soon be presented in the court,” Bugti said, adding, “We have to enforce the law and all those nominated in the cipher case will be arrested and presented in court.” Earlier, Qureshi rejected media reports about a split in the party and also demanded elections on time. He also said in the presser that he had recently met foreign ambassadors recently.
Qureshi was also arrested on May 11 and released on June 6.
Of late, Khan has come under increased scrutiny following the publication of a purported copy of the secret cable by the US media outlet The Intercept, with many in the previous government led by Shehbaz Sharif pointing fingers at the PTI chief for being the source of the leak.
Former interior minister Rana Sanaullah has said that if Khan had indeed lost the copy of the cable provided to him, it would constitute a crime under the Official Secrets Act.
Khan, 70, is currently serving a three-year jail term after he was sentenced by a court in a corruption case earlier this month.