Lahore; Observing that the recent pitched battles between the security personnel and defiant supporters of former prime minister Imran Khan in Lahore have “tarnished the image of Pakistan across the world”, a top court on Thursday prohibited the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party from holding a rally at the historic Minar-e-Pakistan here.
On Tuesday, Khan, the chief of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, announced that he would stage a public gathering at the Minar-e-Pakistan — considered the national emblem of the country and an expression of post-colonial identity — on March 19 as part of his party’s ongoing election campaign in Punjab province.
Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh of the Lahore High Court (LHC) presided over the hearing and said the current situation in the provincial capital “tarnished the image of Pakistan across the world.”
Justice Sheikh ordered that authorities should be informed about a rally at least 15 days in advance so that necessary security arrangements can be made, The Express Tribune newspaper reported.
Justice Sheikh also directed the PTI leadership to hold a meeting with Inspector General Police Punjab and the additional chief secretary to reach a consensus on their concerns that include “implementation of Imran Khan’s non-bailable arrest warrant, security plan and imposition of Section 144”, it added.
Lahore’s upscale Zaman Park area, where Khan, 70, resides, turned into a battleground after his defiant supporters engaged in pitched battles with policemen on Tuesday to stop them from arresting their leader in the Toshakhana case, resulting in injuries to more than 60 people.
Following the LHC order, police and other law enforcers withdrew from Khan’s residence on Wednesday, putting a halt to clashes.
Khan, the former Pakistan Prime Minister has been in the crosshairs for buying gifts, including an expensive Graff wristwatch he had received as the premier at a discounted price from the state depository called Toshakhana and selling them for profit.
Meanwhile, a district court judge in Pakistan said on Thursday that he would halt attempts by the Islamabad police to arrest Khan in a corruption case if the ousted premier surrendered before the court.
Khan, a cricketer-turned-politician, was ousted from power in April last year after losing a no-confidence vote, which he alleged was part of a US-led conspiracy targeting him because of his independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China and Afghanistan.
Since his ouster, Khan has been asking for early elections to oust what he termed an “imported government” led by prime minister Shehbaz Sharif.
Sharif has maintained that elections will be held later this year once the parliament completes its five-year tenure.