Pakistan’s capital Islamabad was tense on Thursday after Imran Khan gave a protest call against the election commission and its chief for being allegedly biased against his party, days after the former premier’s party received a show cause notice for receiving prohibited foreign funds.
Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) have been at loggerheads. Khan has been accusing Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja of being biased.
On Monday, Khan announced his party workers would protest outside the ECP office in Islamabad on Thursday to press for Raja's resignation. He decided to change the venue after the police barricaded the roads leading to the place and the government vowed to stop the protestors.
"Today I am calling all our people to come out in peaceful public protest against CEC & ECP in F9 Park at 6pm," he wrote in a Twitter message, adding that he would address the gathering between 7 pm and 7:30 pm.
“CEC & ECP in cahoots with Imported govt conspired to try a technical knockout against PTI after PMLN got routed in Punjab bye elections despite the support of entire state machinery & ECP shenanigans. Now they are cowering in fear abt same happening to the entire PDM in General Elections,” he wrote.
The protest call comes days after the ECP in the foreign funding case decided that Khan’s PTI received funding from prohibited sources and was involved in hiding the money it received from various sources.
Pakistan's election commission on Tuesday said that Khan's party received funds against the rules from 34 foreign nationals, including a businesswoman of Indian-origin, in a major setback to the former prime minister.
A three-member bench of the ECP issued a show cause notice to Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party for receiving prohibited funding from foreign nationals and foreign-based companies.
The Pakistan government has said it will stop the protesters. Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said on Wednesday that the government will not grant PTI supporters permission to enter the Red Zone and protest outside the ECP.
He said strict action would be taken in case of any misadventure from the PTI, but stated that staging a peaceful protest was everyone’s right.
Police, in anticipation of disturbance by protesters, sealed the Red Zone and placed containers at the entry points of Islamabad.
Personnel of law enforcement agencies including anti-riot force, paramilitary Rangers, Frontier Corps and police have been deployed around the Red Zone.
After barricading the main roads, the police proposed that the PTI should hold a protest in F-9 Park or H-9 ground.
The ECP's verdict came after The Financial Times newspaper recently published a story titled ‘The strange case of the cricket match that helped fund Khan’s political rise’.
The report states that fees were paid to Wootton Cricket Limited, which, despite the name, was in fact a Cayman Islands-incorporated company owned by Naqvi, the founder of Dubai-based Abraaj Group.