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A Pakistan high court on Monday barred cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s planned lockdown of the capital this week and ordered it to hold a sit-in at the designated place here instead, as authorities arrested at least 1,500 party activists in a crackdown. The Islamabad High Court (IHC) heard a petition regarding threat by Imran-led Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) that it would lockdown Islamabad on November 2 to force Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif step down for alleged corruption.
Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddique ordered that the party can hold protest at ‘Democracy Park and Speech Corner’ located near Islamabad’s Parade Ground. “Protest is the fundamental right of every citizens under the law of Pakistan. However, nobody can be compelled, pressurised and restrained to do what is not permissible under the law,” he said. The judge also ordered the administration to act as per law to stop any forced blockade of the capital.
“If any attempt to block or lockdown the capital is made, the district administration shall act in accordance with law,” Justice Siddiqui said. The court also ordered Imran to appear in person and asked police to make arrangement for his security.
Earlier speaking to media, Imran asked the Supreme Court to take suo motu notice of arrests of his party’s workers. He also said that he would not attend in person the hearing at Islamabad High Court which angered Justice Siddique. Meanwhile, the political environment is highly charged as PTI had blamed the government for arresting its workers to stop them from attending the protest.
Media reports citing security officials said the number of those arrested overnight ranges between 1,500 and 1,800. Khan has been protesting to force Sharif resign after names of his children were listed in the Panama Papers as possessing offshore companies to take care of their properties abroad.