National & World News
Pakistan bans protest and rallies in Islamabad for 2 months
ISLAMABAD (AP) -- The Pakistani government on Thursday banned all political meetings, rallies and protests in the capital, Islamabad, ahead of a planned opposition march against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Nov. 2.
The ban, which also applies to the adjacent garrison city of Rawalpindi, will remain in force for two months, the Pakistani Ministry of Interior said in a statement.
The party of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan has threatened to lockdown the capital to force Sharif to step down. Sharif faces mounting public pressure after his family members were named as holders of offshore bank accounts in leaked financial documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.
Sharif has defended his financial record, attempting to explain the details of his family business in parliament and in two televised speeches.
Pakistan's Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing on the scandal on Nov. 1.
Khan's party is one of the five petitioners who have approached the top court requesting an investigation into the scandal. The court has asked the prime minister to file a reply to the allegations made in the petitions in the Nov. 1 hearing. An Islamabad high court also directed Khan's party Thursday to explain by Oct. 31 what his plans are for the march against the prime minister. The court ordered that no road was to be blocked, either by the protesters or the government.
Sharif's aides are calling on Khan's party to postpone the street protests and wait for the court decision.
One of Sharif's allies, parliamentarian Talal Chaudhry, said that Khan's recent statements suggested that his party had plans to paralyze the capital. "We wouldn't allow that," Chaudhry said.
Khan's party has alleged that the police have already started detaining its workers and harassing its leadership. His lawyer Naeem Bokhari said that he and his legal team would review the high court decision to see whether it had the powers to ban the street rallies. He said he would challenge the ruling in the Supreme Court.
"No power can stop our rally," Khan said Thursday in a press conference. "It is our legal, democratic, constitutional right."
The first test of the government's ban on rallies comes Friday, when an alliance of religious extremists plans to hold a public gathering in the heart of Islamabad.