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Cyphergate: FIA grills Qureshi for nearly 2 hours

PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi addressing a press conference in Islamabad, on July 24, 2023, in this still taken from a video. — YouTube/GeoNews
PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi addressing a press conference in Islamabad, on July 24, 2023, in this still taken from a video. — YouTube/GeoNews
  • FIA interrogates Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Asad Umar.
  • 3 officers from intelligence agencies were also present.
  • “Cypher is a reality and was a reality,” says PTI VC

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) grilled Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi for nearly two hours on Monday as it probes the controversial US cypher.

Qureshi appeared before an eight-member team headed by FIA Islamabad Zone Director Rana Abdul Jabbar after it had summoned him — as he is one of the central characters in the cypher saga due to his position as the foreign minister during PTI’s tenure.

Officers from different FIA wings and one grade-19 officer each from three different intelligence institutions were also present during the PTI vice chairman’s interrogation.

Former PTI secretary general Asad Umar also appeared before the FIA team. PTI Chairman Imran Khan has also been summoned on July 25 (tomorrow).

The investigation into the cypher picked pace after the Lahore High Court withdrew the stay order on summons to the ex-premier, and a day after it, Khan’s then-principal secretary Azam Khan “recorded” a statement, terming the US cypher a “conspiracy” used by the ex-PM to “manipulate for creating a narrative against establishment and opposition”.


The PTI vice chairman, after the grilling, told journalists during a media talk that the controversial US cypher was a “reality” and that the National Security Committee (NSC) — the country’s top security apparatus — had accepted it.

Qureshi told journalists that he was interrogated for around two hours, during which he answered the questions “with honesty” and presented his side of the story.

“I have said this before: cypher is a reality and was a reality. Serious people, not part of my party, claimed it was a political drama,” Qureshi, a close aide of PTI Chairman Imran Khan, said.

Cable gate

The controversy first emerged on March 27, 2022, when Imran — just days before his ouster — brandished a letter, claiming that it was a cypher from a foreign nation, which mentioned that his government should be removed from power.

He did not reveal the contents of the letter nor mention the name of the nation that had sent it. But a few days later, he named the United States and said that Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Affairs Donald Lu had sought his removal.

The cypher was about former Pakistan ambassador to the US Asad Majeed’s meeting with Lu.

The former prime minister, claiming that he was reading contents from the cypher, said that “all will be forgiven for Pakistan if Imran Khan is removed from power”.

Then on March 31, the NSC took up the matter and decided to issue a “strong demarche” to the country for its “blatant interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan”.

Later, after his removal, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif convened a meeting of the NSC, which came to the conclusion that it had found no evidence of a foreign conspiracy in the cypher.

Months later, two audio leaks took the internet by storm and shocked the public after these events. The former prime minister, then-federal minister Asad Umar, and then-principle secretary Azam could allegedly be heard discussing the US cypher and how to use it in their interest.

On September 30, the federal cabinet took notice of the matter and constituted a committee to probe the contents of the audio leaks.

In October, the cabinet gave the green signal to initiate action against the former prime minister and handed over the case to the FIA.

Once FIA was given the task to probe the matter, it summoned Khan, Umar, and other leaders of the party, but the PTI chief challenged the summons and secured a stay order from the court.

On July 18, the Lahore High Court recalled the stay order against the call-up notice to Khan by the FIA.

The FIA then again issued summons to Khan, Umar, and Qureshi.

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