Pakistan's opposition leader calls off 'million men' march

AP News
Posted: Nov 01, 2016 10:31 AM
Pakistan's opposition leader calls off 'million men' march

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan retracted on Tuesday a much-trumpeted call to hold a mass protest aimed at "locking down" the capital and forcing the prime minister to resign, after the country's highest court asked the premier to submit a written response to allegations that members of his family were holding offshore bank accounts.

Khan, a former cricketer, called off his "million men" rally, a day before it was due to take place. He urged his supporters to gather at an Islamabad park Wednesday to "celebrate victory" as the Supreme Court holds Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to account.

Khan's move came after the Supreme Court of Pakistan adjourned the hearing of petitions calling for Sharif to be disqualified from office for holding offshore bank accounts.

Sharif has been under immense pressure from the opposition to step down because his family members were named as holders of offshore bank accounts in leaked financial documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. He has repeatedly denied that either he or any his family members were involved in corruption.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan welcomed Khan's announcement.

Police over the past several days used batons and tear gas to prevent Khan's supporters from defying a ban on rallies in Islamabad.

Authorities also detained 1,500 Khan supporters to foil his rally. The arrests followed intermittent clashes between Khan's followers and riot police in Islamabad and elsewhere in Pakistan.

Khan has been under virtual house arrest at his home since Friday. On Tuesday, he could not go to the Supreme Court, which adjourned until Thursday the hearing of his petition seeking the prime minister's disqualification from office.

During the proceedings, judges hinted at forming a judicial commission to determine whether Sharif or his family held offshore bank accounts. After the hearing, Defense Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif told reporters that his party — the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, headed by Sharif — will abide by any verdict of the court.

He said Sharif was ready to face the investigations as he was not involved in any wrongdoing.


Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.