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Pakistan Opposition Postpones Protests After Apex Court Orders Graft Probe


Pakistani policewomen arrest an activist of opposition party Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI) near the house its leader Imran Khan in Islamabad on October 31.

An opposition party in Pakistan has backed down from its threat to shut down the capital, Islamabad, this week.

Imran Khan, the leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI) party, told journalists on November 1 that he has called off Islamabad’s lockdown.

Khan called on supporters to hold a celebratory rally on November 2 to offer thanks after the country’s Supreme Court decided to form a judicial commission to probe the involvement of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family in a financial scandal.

"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 grounds," Khan told journalists outside his home in Islamabad.

“Now go back to your homes, and come back tomorrow,” he told supporters.

The celebratory rally is a step back from PTI’s threat to paralyze Islamabad. The PTI is Pakistan's second-largest opposition party in terms of representation in parliament.

PTI leader Khan, a former cricketing star, claims to be fighting endemic corruption in Pakistan. But many senior leaders in his party have backed military dictators in the past and also face accusations of graft.

Soon after the announcement, authorities ordered all highways to the capital open in a sign that tensions are easing.

In the days ahead of the planned protest in the capital, PTI supporters clashed with police in a faceoff that boiled over into violence. The PTI claims hundreds of its supporters were arrested in the government crackdown.

Earlier, the PTI said two of its supporters died from the use of tear gas by police to prevent hundreds of demonstrators from entering Islamabad.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, a PTI leader, said the two died on November 1 "due to excessive use of expired tear-gas shells" during overnight clashes with police.

Khan has been calling on Sharif since April to either resign or allow an inquiry after members of the prime minister’s family were named as holders of offshore bank accounts in leaked documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

Sharif, however, has refused to resign because of the so-called Panama Papers. Sharif, a third-term prime minister, has vowed to prove he and his family did nothing illegal or corrupt.

The holding of offshore companies is not prohibited under Pakistani law. But Khan has implied Sharif’s money was gained through corruption.

In May, Khan admitted he used an offshore company himself to legally avoid paying British tax on the sale of a London apartment.

With reporting by Reuters, DPA, AFP, DawnNews, and Geo-TV

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