The open trial of incarcerated former Prime Minister Imran Khan and former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi resumed on Saturday at Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, near the capital Islamabad, where both leaders of the former ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party "only marked their presence."
Despite the special court judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnian's order, jail officials refused to allow national and international media reporters to cover the first day of the open trial proceedings.
"Today, Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi appeared before the judge, and he only marked their presence and adjourned the proceeding until Monday," Khan's lawyer, Barrister Umair Niazi, told reporters outside the jail.
Niazi added that only three journalists from local media were allowed to enter the court just before the hearing ended, while the remaining national and international media journalists were denied entry.
"Imran Khan urged the court to allow journalists to attend the proceeding if really this is an open trial," he said.
On Thursday, the Pakistan Ministry of Law and Justice issued a notification instructing the authorities to hold the open trial of the former prime minister inside the jail.
The government notification came after special court judge Zulqarnian on Tuesday ordered Khan's public trial in prison after authorities failed to physically produce him before the court in Islamabad, citing "security threats."
The judge ruled that journalists, the general public, and Khan's family members would be allowed to observe the proceedings in the jail.
Last month, the Islamabad High Court ruled that Khan's trial in jail was "illegal" and ordered a retrial in open court.
The former cricket star was arrested in August, and many of the cases against him have been tried in prison.
Khan and Qureshi were indicted in the "cipher case" last month. Both have pleaded not guilty.
The case is related to diplomatic communications between Washington and Islamabad, which Khan alleges was part of a US conspiracy to topple his government last year.
Khan, who served as prime minister of Pakistan from 2018-2022, lost a vote of confidence in parliament in April 2022, one year short of completing his term.
In a separate development, Khan's PTI party on Saturday elected Barrister Gohar Khan as its new chairman during an intra-party election.
"Heartiest congratulations to Barrister Gohar Ali Khan sahib to be elected as Chairman Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf and all other colleagues who have been elected today," said Omar Ayub Khan, the newly elected PTI secretary general, in a statement on X.
Last month, the Election Commission of Pakistan ordered the PTI to hold its intra-party elections within 20 days.
Khan did not contest the election as he is already facing dozens of cases and is incarcerated.
However, Barrister Khan said that he would serve as chairman until Khan is released from jail.