Pakistan bans protests ahead of Imran strike plan
Nawaz Sharif is under growing pressure from opposition parties over Panama Papers revelations
Pakistan on Thursday banned all public gatherings in Islamabad for two months, setting the stage for confrontation ahead of a major protest aimed at paralysing the capital and unseating Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The premier is under growing pressure from opposition parties over his children’s offshore bank accounts that were revealed in the Panama Papers leak.
Demand for resignation
Former cricketer-turned opposition leader Imran Khan, who is due to lead the protest on November 2, has demanded Mr. Sharif stand down over the revelations. “This will be a decisive and historic gathering, people will come together with resolve to hold the Prime Minister accountable,” Mr. Khan told reporters.
However, there will be a heavy police presence in Islamabad to deter protesters with confrontation now appearing inevitable.
Mr. Khan led a previous mass protest in the summer of 2014 that lasted four months, allying himself to populist cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri to back a sit-in in front of Parliament calling for the government to resign over election rigging allegations.
A notification banned gatherings for two months because protests were “likely to threaten public peace and tranquillity, cause public annoyance or injury, endanger human life and safety”.
The planned protest comes at a sensitive time for Mr. Sharif, with the Supreme Court due to start hearing a case into the Panama Papers revelations about his family on November 1. The government’s relationship with the all-powerful army is also at a low ebb following the publication of an embarrassing report this month that said civilian officials had clashed with the military over its alleged covert support for proxy fighters.
The army has used the pretext of civil unrest to unseat governments three times in Pakistan’s history and some analysts believe Mr. Sharif may be forced to strike a deal that would appease the military to ensure his survival. — AFP