Pak­istan’s Khan backs off from threat to shut down Is­lam­abad

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -


Pak­istani op­po­si­tion leader Im­ran Khan backed down from a threat to par­a­lyze the cap­i­tal to­day, a move likely to ease ten­sion that has spilled over into vi­o­lence in the run-up to the planned protests. Khan’s vow to “shut down” Is­lam­abad to press a de­mand for Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif to re­sign or face a cor­rup­tion in­quiry had sparked a city­wide ban on gath­er­ings and the ar­rests of hun­dreds of op­po­si­tion ac­tivists ac­cused of de­fy­ing the ban.

In­stead of the protest, Khan yes­ter­day said he would hold a “cel­e­bra­tory” rally, fol­low­ing a de­ci­sion by the Supreme Court to pur­sue a case linked to Sharif. “On the Supreme Court’s ad­vice, we have de­cided that to­mor­row we will thank God and cel­e­brate a day of thanks at (Is­lam­abad’s) pa­rade ground,” Khan told me­dia, speak­ing out­side his home in Is­lam­abad.

In a bid to re­solve the cri­sis, the Supreme Court said it would hold daily hear­ings on a pe­ti­tion chal­leng­ing Sharif’s el­i­gi­bil­ity for pub­lic of­fice, claims linked to graft al­le­ga­tions stem­ming from the “Panama Pa­pers” leaks about his fam­ily’s off­shore wealth. Khan had pre­vi­ously re­jected the pos­si­bil­ity of hold­ing his protests on Is­lam­abad’s pa­rade ground, as or­dered by the city’s High Court, and vowed to par­a­lyze the cap­i­tal with a turnout of a mil­lion protesters. The ten­sion un­leashed fears Pak­istan’s eco­nomic re­cov­ery could be jeop­ar­dized if there were a pro­longed cri­sis that could even draw in the pow­er­ful mil­i­tary, which has a his­tory of med­dling in pol­i­tics and over­throw­ing civil­ian govern­ments.

In the lead-up to to­day, there have been daily clashes be­tween po­lice and sup­port­ers of the crick­eter-turned-politi­cian, while the govern­ment has cracked down on work­ers of his Pak­istan Tehreek-e-In­saf (PTI) party. Au­thor­i­ties have ar­rested scores of party sup­port­ers and shut ma­jor mo­tor­ways into Is­lam­abad. Pak­istan’s soar­ing stock mar­ket, which took a hit in re­cent days on the prospect of the protests, bounced sharply af­ter Khan’s de­ci­sion to call them off.

Khan’s chal­lenge in the Supreme Court stems from the Panama Pa­pers rev­e­la­tions and he has re­peat­edly de­manded an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions. Doc­u­ments leaked from the Panama-based Mos­sack Fon­seca law firm in April ap­peared to show that Sharif’s daugh­ter and two sons owned off­shore hold­ing com­pa­nies reg­is­tered in the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands. Sharif’s fam­ily de­nies wrong­do­ing. Hold­ing off­shore com­pa­nies is not il­le­gal in Pak­istan, but Khan has im­plied the money was gained by cor­rup­tion. Khan ad­mit­ted in May that he him­self used an off­shore com­pany to legally avoid pay­ing Bri­tish tax on a Lon­don prop­erty sale. —Reuters

SWABI: Ac­tivists of Pak­istan’s Tehreek-i-In­saf (PTI) party ges­ture as they travel in a ve­hi­cle at Swabi, af­ter lis­ten­ing to an ad­dress from party leader Im­ran Khan. —AFP

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