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Pakistan bans protests in capital after recent unrest

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Islamabad: Pakistan today announced a ban on demonstrations in Islamabad after recent rallies by Islamic extremists led to the destruction of property and forced four days of road closures in the heart of the capital.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced the move at a news conference, saying the ban will not be extended to other parts of the country.

The move came less than two weeks after tens of thousands of radical Islamists descended on Islamabad to protest against the execution of a policeman who had assassinated a secular governor over his opposition to the country’s harsh blasphemy laws.

The protesters blocked roads and clashed with police, disrupting life around government offices and parliament. The protesters eventually dispersed after the government warned it would resort to force.

Khan said the government would not allow a repeat of the experience.

He said he was willing to meet with opposition leader Imran Khan, who a day before vowed to hold a rally outside the residence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the eastern city of Lahore if he did not resign over documents leaked from a Panama-based law firm that Khan says link Sharif’s family to offshore accounts.

Imran Khan, a former cricket star who is not related to the interior minister, also plans to hold a rally in Islamabad on April 24. Khan’s supporters held mass rallies in central Islamabad for several weeks in 2014.

Last week, Sharif announced the establishment of an independent judicial commission to probe whether his family illegally owns offshore companies and property. Sharif wants a retired judge to lead the commission, but Imran Khan insists it be headed by Pakistan’s chief justice.

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