The Pakistan government on Thursday banned political rallies in the capital for two months, even as a defiant Imran Khan vowed to go ahead with his protest here next week demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation. The district administration in the capital imposed section 144, banning public gatherings and display of weapons. According to a notification more than five people cannot gather at a location.
Public rallies and mass gatherings have been banned, Radio Pakistan reported.
The notification came ahead of the sit-in by Imran-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf planned for November 2. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is protesting alleged money laundering by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family in the wake of the Panama Papers leak and is demanding the Premier’s resignation.
Meanwhile, Islamabad High Court today ordered the opposition and government to abstain from shutting down the capital in the name of protest or maintaining law and order. The Islamabad High Court heard petitions to outlaw a threat by Imran to impose gridlock on Islamabad on November 2 to force Prime Minister Sharif to resign.
Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui said neither the opposition nor the government has any right under the law to shut down the city. He directed the government and capital city administration to ensure smooth running of daily business on November 2. Siddiqui ordered the administration not to place any containers or block roads during the protest by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, while also restraining the opposition from imposing a lockdown.
The judge also summoned Imran on October 31 to explain why in his speeches he had threatened to shut down the capital. “We will not let rights of citizens be violated,” Justice Siddiqui said during hearing. He also asked the administration to inform Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf that it should restrict protests at a designated place.
The court also observed that “judiciary is the third umpire”and can decide on matters related to law and Constitution. The reference was made in the context of any possibility of intervention by army as Imran had earlier said that only Prime Minister Sharif will be responsible if democracy was derailed and a “third power” stepped in due to protests.
Addressing the media in Islamabad after the court order, a defiant Imran said, “It is my legal and constitutional right to hold a peaceful protest and I will exercise that right.” “No power or deception can stop us from holding a sit-in in Islamabad,” he said.
Imran said using force against peaceful protesters is unconstitutional. He warned that the government’s attempt to stop the rally will only result in spreading chaos. Imran said he will challenge the High Court decision in the Supreme Court.