By Asad Hashim
ISLAMABAD, Oct 27 – Pakistan outlawed public gatherings and political protests in the capital Islamabad on Thursday, ahead of next week’s planned “lockdown” of the city by opposition politician Imran Khan.
Khan’s party said it would defy the order, heightening the stakes in a political standoff with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who Khan wants to resign over alleged corruption, and raising fears of street clashes.
Deputy Commissioner Mushtaq Ahmed, the city’s top administrator, outlawed gatherings of more than five people, the display of firearms by anyone other than security forces and the use of loudspeakers in public for two months, according to orders issued by his office.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, which led a weeks-long occupation of Islamabad in 2014 after rejecting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s election win, says it will shut down the capital on Nov. 2 unless Sharif resigns or submits to the opposition’s terms for an investigation.
A former cricketing hero, Khan said the protests would force the closure of schools, public offices, roads into the capital and the airport until Sharif resigned or agreed to be investigated.
“It is necessary to control such types of illegal activities which present a threat to public peace, tranquillity and maintenance of law and order,” said Ahmed in an official notification announcing the measures.
Anila Khwaja, a spokesperson for Khan’s party, said the order would not deter the planned protests.
“He’s more determined than ever,” she said of Khan.
An Islamabad court on Thursday also issued orders for both police and Khan’s party not to block roads or public spaces during the planned protest.
“We will protest and march to Islamabad under all conditions, no body can stop us,” he told a press conference on Wednesday.
Khan’s months-long 2014 protests crippled the capital, but ended without the overthrow of the government. This time, he is challenging Sharif’s legitimacy to rule.
Leaked documents from the Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm appear to show that Sharif’s daughter and two sons own offshore holding companies registered in the British Virgin Islands. Sharif’s family deny wrongdoing.
Holding offshore companies is not illegal in Pakistan, but Khan has implied the money was gained by corruption.
Khan acknowledged in May that he used an offshore company to legally avoid paying British tax on a London property sale.