Police have raided and arrested participants of a rally organized by opposition leader and former cricketer Imran Khan. The raid came hours after the government banned all gatherings for the next two months.
The arrests were made at a youth meeting of Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in Islamabad's E-11 district, party spokeswoman Anila Khawaja told reporters. "All of a sudden, police arrived and started arresting people," she said.
Video footage aired by local television channels showed uniformed officers beating activists and leading them to buses to be taken away.
A spokesman for the government said the raid had taken place because the rally organizers had not received permission from the local administration. "They have done a convention without permission, which is against the law. So police have carried out an operation there," he told Reuters news agency.
Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government ordered a ban on all political rallies, meetings and protests in Islamabad and the adjacent garrison city of Rawalpindi. The ban would remain in force for the next two months, officials said.
In a televised speech later on Thursday, Imran Khan said his Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party would defy all bans and proceed with its protest demonstration planned on November 2. The rally was being called in support of his political ally, Sheikh Rashid of the Awami Muslim League.
Nawaz Sharif has denied charges of corruption in relation with his family's holdings in a Panama-based firm
"No power can stop our rally...It is our legal, democratic, constitutional right," Khan told reporters. The planned sit-in would bring a million people to the streets and force schools, public offices and the main international airport to close, he said.
Khan's protests are targeted at Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who, together with his two sons and one daughter is accused of owning two offshore companies registered in the British Virgin Islands.
Khan says Sharif has earned the money through corrupt practices. Sharif's family however, has denied any wrongdoing in the case, which was revealed to the public following leaks from the Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm. Pakistan's Supreme Court is due to hear the case next Tuesday.
A former cricketer, Khan acknowledged in May this year that he used the services of an offshore company to save tax on a property in London.
mg/jm (AP, Reuters)