Pak Cabinet approves legal action against Imran Khan over leaked ‘foreign conspiracy’ cypher audio tapes

Pak Cabinet approves legal action against Imran Khan over leaked ‘foreign conspiracy’ cypher audio tapes 1

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Cabinet on Sunday decided to launch legal action against former prime minister Imran Khan and his party’s top leaders over audio leaks in which he could allegedly be heard discussing the controversial US cypher and how to exploit it to portray his ouster as a conspiracy.

At least two audio tapes have been circulating on social media since Tuesday where 69-year-old Khan can be heard discussing a diplomatic communication with leaders and giving directions about how to use it for political objectives.

The cable based on a meeting of US Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asia Donald Lu with Pakistan ambassador in Washington Asad Majeed reportedly involves the US official discussing the political situation in Pakistan.

Taking notice of the leaks, the Cabinet formed a committee on September 30.

The committee in a meeting on Saturday recommended legal action against those featuring in the leaked audio tapes with proposals presented in the form of a summary before the cabinet for approval.
The Cabinet approved the summary through circulation on Sunday.

The Cabinet tasked the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to investigate the ‘diplomatic cipher’ audio leaks following the committee’s recommendation.

“This is a matter of national security which could have possible adverse effects on the country’s interest,” the cabinet committee stated in a notification. It said that legal action was “necessary” and the FIA should form a committee comprising senior officials to probe the matter.

“The FIA team should take action against offenders as per law,” the committee recommended in the summary.

In the two audio leaks, Khan, ex-minister Asad Umar, and then-principal secretary Azam Khan could allegedly be heard discussing the US cypher in a meeting and how to use it in their interest.
In the first audio that was leaked on Wednesday, Khan was reportedly talking to Azam and directing him to play with the cypher.

In the second audio clip, three Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party leaders, including Umar, Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Azam, could be heard talking about the American cypher with Khan, the party’s chairman.

Khan used the cypher to build a powerful narrative that his government was toppled in April due to a foreign conspiracy with the help of local collaborators. However, his stance came under scanner after audio leaks of a secret meeting held at the PM Office surfaced.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf senior leader and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in his reaction said that the government action to hold the probe endorsed his party’s stance that the cypher was real and led to the toppling of Khan’s government.

“We never took a step that harmed the interests of Pakistan. We served this country with dignity and will continue doing so,” he tweeted.

Khan has accused Lu of threatening Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US that a failure to remove Khan through a no-confidence vote would herald “consequences” for Pakistan and vice versa.

Khan was ousted from power in April after losing a no-confidence vote in his leadership, which he alleged was part of a US-led conspiracy targeting him because of his independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China and Afghanistan. The US has denied any role in his ouster.

The cricketer-turned-politician is the only prime minister in Pakistan to be ousted in a no-confidence vote in Parliament.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Mus­lim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Maryam Nawaz on Saturday expressed her discontent with the government led by her uncle Prime Minister She­h­baz Sharif over its failure to arrest Khan despite a “litany of charges” that “merited his detention”.

She asked the government to carry out a raid at Khan’s Bani Gala residence to recover the “stolen copy of the cypher”.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said that Khan was “power hungry” and wanted to rule the country at “any cost”.

“The decision is that the matter will be taken forward under the Official Secret Act,” he said. PTI

IAF to retire Abhinandan Varthaman’s MiG-21 squadron

IAF to retire Abhinandan Varthaman’s MiG-21 squadron 2

NEW DELHI: The Indian Air Force is set to retire its Srinagar-based MiG-21 squadron ‘Sword Arms’ that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was a part of when he had downed an F-16 combat aircraft of Pakistan a day after the Balakot strike in February 2019, sources said on Monday.

‘Sword Arms’ is one of its four remaining squadrons of ageing MiG-21 fighter jets.

The No. 51 Squadron is to be retired by the end of September, “as per the plan”, the defence sources said.

The remaining three squadrons of MiG-21 will be phased out by 2025, they said.

IAF fighter jets had bombed a Jaish-e-Mohammed militant training camp in Balakot on February 26, 2019, nearly two weeks after the Pulwama militant attack. Pakistan had retaliated on February 27 by attempting to target Indian military installations.

Varthaman (now Group Captain) had taken to the skies to thwart an aerial attack launched by adversaries and engaged in a dogfight with Pakistani jets during aerial combat.

Before his MiG-21 Bison jet was shot down, Varthaman had downed the F-16 fighter of Pakistan. He was conferred the Vir Chakra, India’s third-highest wartime gallantry medal, on the Independence Day in 2019.

The MiG-21 jets were inducted into IAF over four decades ago and many of these planes were lost in crashes.

Though the Soviet-era Russian fighter jets have also been in news in the last several years for multiple crashes causing death of pilots, the sources said “when an IAF aircraft is air-borne, it means it is fully serviceable”.

“Ageing is a factor, but we read reports that even a modern aircraft can crash. A crash can happen due to multiple factors, including weather,” a source said.

And, the retiring Srinagar-based No. 51 squadron, also known as ‘Sword Arms’, is “happening as per the plan”, he said, adding that the old fleet were in operation also as new ones were awaited.

The No. 51 Squadron or ‘Sword Arms’ is one of the decorated squadrons of the IAF, and it participated during Op Safed Sagar (Kargil conflict) in 1999.

“It was conferred with one Vayu Sena Medal and three Mention-in-Dispatches for its effective contribution. During Operation Parakram, the Squadron was tasked with the Air Defence Of Kashmir Valley,” according to Bharat Rakshak website.

It was raised at Chandigarh in 1985. The crest of the squadron portrays a pair of muscular arms firmly clasping a sword, depicting the motto “Vijaya Prakrama” which means ‘Valour for Victory’, it said.

For its meritorious and glorious service to the nation, since its inception, the squadron was awarded the President’s Standards in 2018, the website says.

Pak court Drops Terror charges against Imran Khan in controversial remarks case

Pak court Drops Terror charges against Imran Khan in controversial remarks case 3

Islamabad: In a major relief to former prime minister Imran Khan, a Pakistani court on Monday ordered to delete terror charges in a case against him for making controversial remarks against a female judge during a rally here last month.

During a rally here on August 20, 69-year-old Khan had threatened to file cases against top police officials, election commission and political opponents over the treatment meted out to his aide Shahbaz Gill, who was arrested on charges of sedition.

He had also taken exception to Additional District and Sessions Judge Zeba Chaudhry, who had approved Gill’s two-day physical remand at the request of the police, and said she should “prepare herself as action would be taken against her.”

Hours after the speech, Khan was booked under the Anti-Terrorism Act for threatening police, judiciary and other state institutions at his rally.

He had challenged the case in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) where a two-member bench headed by Chief Justice Athar Minallah heard the case.

Announcing the verdict, the bench ordered that after removal of charges under Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, that proceedings on the other sections in the case would continue in the relevant forum.

Khan was also charged for violating Section 144 and later on other sections were added to the FIR, including Section 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace), 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation), 186 (imprisonment for three months), and 188 (disobedience to an order lawfully promulgated by a public servant) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

After deletion of the man anti-terrorism charges, the case has lost steam. However, Khan is not out of the woods as yet as IHC is also proceeding against him in contempt of court on the basis of the same remarks against the female judge.

Khan was ousted from power in April after losing a no-confidence vote in his leadership, which he alleged was part of a US-led conspiracy targeting him because of his independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China and Afghanistan.

The cricketer-turned-politician, who came to power in 2018, is the only Pakistani Prime Minister to be ousted in a no-confidence vote in Parliament.

US would defend Taiwan against Chinese invasion

US would defend Taiwan against Chinese invasion 4

Beijing: President Joe Biden says US forces would defend Taiwan if China tries to invade the self-ruled island claimed by Beijing as part of its territory, adding to displays of official American support for the island democracy.

Asked during an interview broadcast on Sunday on CBS News’s “60 Minutes” program whether “US forces, US men and women, would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion,” Biden said, “Yes.”

CBS News reported the White House said after the interview that US policy hasn’t changed.

That policy says Washington wants to see Taiwan’s status resolved peacefully but doesn’t say whether US forces might be sent in response to a Chinese attack.

Biden’s comments come amid rising tension over Taiwan following efforts by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government to intimidate the island by firing missiles into the sea and flying fighter jets nearby and visits to Taipei by political figures including US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Washington is obligated by federal law to see that Taiwan has the means to defend itself but doesn’t say whether US forces would be sent. The United States has no formal relations with the island but maintains informal diplomatic ties.

Taiwan and China split in 1949 after a civil war that ended with the Communist Party in control of the mainland. The two governments say they are one country but dispute which is entitled to be the national leader.

Beijing criticizes official foreign contact with Taiwan’s elected government as encouragement to make its de facto independence permanent, a step the mainland says would lead to war.

Washington says it doesn’t support formal independence for Taiwan, a stance Biden repeated in the interview broadcast Sunday.

“Taiwan makes their own judgments about their independence,” the president said. “We’re not encouraging their being independent.”

In May, Biden said “yes” when asked at a news conference in Tokyo whether he was willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if China invaded.(AP)

Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif to consult Nawaz Sharif on Army chief’s appointment: Report

Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif to consult Nawaz Sharif on Army chief’s appointment: Report 5

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will decide on the appointment of the next Army chief after discussing the matter with former premier Nawaz Sharif in London, according to a media report.

Nawaz Sharif, the elder brother of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, has been living in London since November 2019 when he was allowed to go there for medical treatment but never returned. He served thrice as the prime minister of Pakistan and appointed at least four Army chiefs.

Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, 61, would retire on November 29.