ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said on Tuesday that the government would not allow former Prime Minister Imran Khan to hold a planned anti-government long march to the federal capital on May 25 on the grounds its aim was to spread “chaos and anarchy” in the country.
Khan, who was ousted from power last month in a no-confidence vote after losing a parliamentary majority, said on Sunday he would march to Islamabad with his party supporters to demand the dissolution of assemblies and a date for fresh elections.
“They want to spread chaos and anarchy through the nation,” the interior minister said, adding that the federal cabinet had decided not to grant permission for the protest march.
The interior minister said Khan was removed through a “constitutional process” and had no justification for launching the planned march.
“Peaceful demonstrations are everyone’s right, but they are not coming for a peaceful protest,” he added.
In a press conference shortly after the government’s announcement, a defiant Khan said he would lead the march to Islamabad as planned.
The government’s decision comes after Khan accused police of detaining hundreds of his supporters in raids that started early Tuesday. A policeman was killed during one of the raids when a supporter of the former premier allegedly opened fire.
Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said that Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party had “crossed the red line” and would not be allowed to create further political instability.
“Whenever the economy starts to take off, Imran Khan’s mischief becomes an obstacle in its path,” she told the APP news agency. “Today we have started to revive the economy of Pakistan and provide relief to people … No interference will be tolerated.”
Another leader of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party, Attaullah Tarar, told the media that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif would visit the deceased policeman’s family and announce monetary compensation.
In light of the constable’s killing, Tarar said the government had decided to impose Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in Lahore, empowering officials to suspend political gatherings in the public interest.
Tarar said the government had information that Khan’s march was likely to become violent and some participants wanted to carry weapons. Khan has repeatedly said the demonstration would be peaceful and its only aim was to call for early elections.
Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Mohammed Asif said in a Twitter post that Khan was planning to “attack” Islamabad by utilizing the resources of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where his PTI party is in power.
“The federal government will fully defend the writ of the state and the personal agenda of (Imran Khan) will not be fulfilled,” Asif said. “Any situation of conflict between the provincial and federal governments threatening the country’s integrity will be handled with an iron fist.”