Imran Khan warned by police not to hold rally in Islamabad

Supporters of Pakistan's ousted prime minister say hundreds of his followers have been arrested

People cross a bridge on the Ravi River, which is closed to traffic as authorities attempt to foil a planned protest in Lahore, Pakistan. AP
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Pakistan’s government has issued a stark warning to ousted prime minister Imran Khan, saying that his supporters will not be able to hold a political rally in Islamabad on Wednesday, after a policeman was shot dead.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said the policeman was shot by a supporter of Mr Khan, who in turn has accused authorities of carrying out a draconian campaign against his supporters.

Mr Sanaullah said the killing of the officer proves that Mr Khan is a “terrorist”.

“The decision has been taken to stop them from spreading their agenda of manipulation and division. These people have moved from abuses to bullets,” Mr Sanaullah said in a tweet on Tuesday, in which he did not repeat the “terrorist” accusation but accused Mr Khan's supporters of spreading “anarchy”.

“PTI's proposed long march has nothing to do with the democratic norms, as the party wants to spread anarchy in the country,” he added, using an acronym for Mr Khan's party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.

Allies of Mr Khan accuse authorities of raiding 1,100 homes and arresting 400 people in overnight raids, before a rally in support of the former cricket star.

Since being removed from office in a vote of no confidence, Mr Khan has held mass political gatherings across the country in which he has accused his rivals of working covertly with the US government in a plot to unseat him.

On Tuesday, Mr Khan tweeted that his supporters in the PTI had a right to peacefully protest.

“The brutal crackdown on PTI [leaders and] workers in Punjab and Islamabad has once again shown us what we are familiar with ― the fascist nature of PML-N when in power,” he said in a tweet, referring to the party of current prime minister Shehbaz Sharif.

On Saturday, senior PTI leader and former minister Shireen Mazari was arrested near her house in the capital over a case involving a decades-old land dispute. She was briefly detained before a court ordered her release.

In 2018, Mr Khan was voted in by an electorate weary of the dynastic politics of the country's two major parties, with the popular former sports star promising to sweep away decades of entrenched corruption and cronyism.

He was brought down in part by his failure to rectify the country's dire economic situation, including its crippling debt, shrinking foreign currency reserves and soaring inflation.

Mr Sharif is now grappling with the same crisis, as well as rising militancy and soured relations with the West.

Updated: May 24, 2022, 2:41 PM