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Confessional statement of Azam Khan dubs cypher narrative as conspiracy

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A purported confessional statement of former prime minister’s then principal secretary Muhammad Azam Khan emerged on Wednesday, wherein Khan describes the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief as “euphoric” when being informed of the infamous cypher.

Addressing a press conference over the matter, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah revealed the alleged contents of Khan’s statement. The PTI chief “termed the language as US Blunder while saying that the cypher can now be manipulated for creating a narrative against establishment and opposition,” according to the statement.

Azam Khan, who has been “missing” since last month reportedly recorded his statement before a judicial magistrate. His whereabouts have not been disclosed yet.

The PTI chief, who was deposed as premier in April 2022 through a parliamentary vote of no confidence, had accused Washington in March last year of orchestrating a plan to oust him. He had referred to the cypher in question as evidence for his claims. Later the same year, the PTI chief shifted the blame from the United States to previous army chief General (Retd) Qamar Javed Bajwa, saying he wished to mend fences with the former.

According to Khan’s purported confessional statement, on March 8, 2022, then foreign secretary approached him and informed him of the cypher, which was sent to his residence later the same evening. Azam Khan said that the foreign secretary told him that then foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had already discussed the cypher with the PTI chief.

This was confirmed the next day when Khan presented the cypher to the PTI chief, according to the alleged statement.

The PTI chief allegedly told Khan that the “cypher can be used to divert [the] general public’s attention towards foreign involvement in NCM [no confidence motion] by [the] opposition”. Khan handed over the cypher to the PTI chief upon the latter’s request but when he asked for it the next day – March 10, 2022 – he was told that it had been misplaced, according to Sanaullah.

In his confessional statement, Khan allegedly said that the PTI chief had told him that the cypher would be displayed in front of the public and a narrative would be constructed implying that “a foreign conspiracy is being hatched in collusion with local partners”. The PTI chief allegedly confided in Khan that he would play the “victim card”.

According to Sanaullah, Khan then advised the PTI chief that the cypher was a secret coded document and its contents could not be disclosed. After this, Khan suggested a formal meeting with the PTI chief and the foreign secretary during which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) copy of the cypher could be read as the PTI chief had lost the original and further decisions could be made.

This meeting was held on March 28, 2022, according to Khan’s purported statement, and it was decided that the matter would be placed before the federal cabinet.

This was done two days later on March 30 and a decision was taken that the matter would be tackled by the National Security Committee, which convened on March 31 to discuss the issue. Khan allegedly told the magistrate that all cyphers received from MOFA are returned to the ministry’s representative in the prime minister’s office but while he held the post of principal secretary the original copy of this cypher remained “lost” as the PTI chief did not return it despite repeated requests.

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