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After crackdown on supporters, Pakistan government bans Imran Khan’s mega rally

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan government on Tuesday banned ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party from holding a massive rally on May 25 to prevent them from “propagating their misleading agenda”, after more than 100 supporters were arrested in overnight raids across the country.

On Saturday, Khan had asked his supporters to march peacefully to Islamabad on May 25 to press for the dissolution of the National Assembly and fresh elections in the country.

Pakistan’s coalition government, however, has rejected Khan’s demand that early elections be held in the country, saying the government will complete its tenure and the polls would be held next year. “Peaceful protest is the right of everyone but they (supporters of Khan) are not coming for a peaceful protest. We would not have objected if they had not termed their demonstration as a ‘bloody protest’,” Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah told the media here.

The minister said the Pakistan government will not allow the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf to spread “chaos and disorder” in the guise of a protest march. “They will be stopped so that they cannot propagate their misleading agenda,” he said, adding that these PTI workers had moved from “abuses to bullets”.

The Interior Minister was referring to a police constable in Lahore who was killed at a raid to arrest supporters of Khan’s party. Sanaullah said the cabinet decided to impose the ban to “prevent anarchy” and because Khan’s party failed to assure the administration that the rally would be peaceful.

Over 100 activists belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf were arrested in the country’s Punjab province on Monday. The police confirmed that the arrests were made at the behest of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) ruling coalition, and the clampdown.

On Monday, Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif alleged that Khan wants to unleash a “civil war” like situation in the country.

According to Fawad Chaudhry, a spokesman for the Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party, police raids against their supporters started after midnight on Monday.

At a press conference in Peshawar on Tuesday, Khan vowed to carry on with the massive rally in Islamabad as planned despite the Pakistan government’s ban. “I tell my supporters to reach Islamabad and I will also be there,” he said, insisting he was not afraid of death and urged his followers to “get ready for sacrifices” for the sake of Pakistan’s sovereignty.

Khan also asked the powerful army to stop playing neutral and play its role in ending the current crisis. Khan, the 69-year-old cricketer-turned-politician, has been adamant that he was ousted from power last month through an alleged US-backed vote of no-confidence since Washington did not like his Russia policy. These claims were strongly refuted by the US.


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