Tensions rise in Pakistan after Imran Khan vows to defy ban on rally: Report

Tensions rise in Pakistan after Imran Khan vows to defy ban on rally: Report

Tensions are building in Pakistan once again with ousted prime minister Imran Khan seemingly on a collision course with the country’s government after he called on thousands of followers to defy a ban on a protest march to Islamabad today to demand fresh elections. Visuals Tuesday from the capital city’s Red Zone – home to key government and judicial buildings – resembled war scenes, with shipping containers and sandbags blocking entry and exit and police and paramilitary troops in place. Access to key buildings – the parliament, foreign embassies and the prime minister’s office – has been restricted.

Pak interior minister Rana Sanaullah has accused Imran Khan of wanting to create ‘chaos’ and has warned the former cricketer he will be stopped. 

Sanaullah also warned Khan he would be arrested – something likely to trigger (even more) massive protests – should he persist.

READ: Pak government says it will not hold elections before 2023, warns Imran Khan against ‘gravedigging’

Last night hundreds of Khan’s supporters were arrested; police said the arrests were ordered by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) coalition.

Fawad Chaudhry, a spokesman for Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), said at least 400 were arrested. Khan later condemned the arrests on Twitter.

READ: Over 100 opposition activists arrested in Pak ahead of Imran Khan rally

Earlier today Khan seemed to fan the flames, not only insisting he would go through with his protest march but declaring himself ‘not afraid of death’.

“I tell my supporters to reach Islamabad and I will also be there… They (the government) don’t have much space in prisons. Get rid of fear…” he said at a press conference, in remarks that seem to set up potentially violent clashes between protesters and government forces.

A cricket star-turned-politician, Khan served as prime minister for over three-and-a-half years till he was ousted by a no-confidence vote in April.

READ: Pak headed for instability as Shehbaz’s political, economic woes mount

He has remained defiant since and has claimed his removal was the result of a United States-organised plot in collusion with his successor, Shahbaz Sharif. Both the US and the current Pak government have denied the allegation, but that hasn’t silenced Khan.

With input from AP, Bloomberg

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