Pakistan's authorities have banned a planned mass protest rally organized by former Prime Minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, closing all roads leading to the capital city of Islamabad.
The ban was announced on Tuesday by Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah at a news briefing, saying "no one would be allowed to siege the capital and dictate his demands”.
Since being removed from power through a no-confidence vote last month, the international cricket star-turned-politician has heaped pressure on the country's fragile new coalition government by staging mass rallies demanding fresh elections.
The coalition government headed by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has pledged to stop Khan's supporters from pouring into the city, calling the rally an attempt to "divide the nation and promote chaos".
Speaking at a press conference in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Tuesday, Khan promised to carry on with the rally. “Try to stop us, if you can,” Khan said, addressing authorities.
He said he would lead the largest march in Pakistan’s history and that he was not afraid of death, as he urged his followers to “get ready for sacrifices” for the sake of Pakistan’s sovereignty.
Khan’s PTI party planned the march after a policeman was allegedly shot dead by a party official during a crackdown. On Tuesday, the party accused police of arresting and detaining hundreds of its supporters in overnight raids.
Khan, who was recently unseated following a no-confidence vote in parliament in April, has openly blamed the administration of US President Joe Biden, in collusion with his successor Shehbaz Sharif, for his ouster.
He served as prime minister for more than three and half years. During his tenure, Khan failed to rectify the country’s dire economic situation, including its crippling debt, shrinking foreign currency reserves and soaring inflation.