Pakistani opposition leader barred from Karachi


Islamabad : Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan was Sunday prevented from visiting the southern city of Karachi where he had planned to meet families of victims of recent political violence that killed 41 people.

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The former cricket star and head of Tehrik-i-Insaf, or Movement for Justice Party, was not allowed to board a Karachi-bound plane from Lahore and was also served a notice by the local government banning him from leaving the city for three days, party spokesman Omar Cheema said.

"This is a violation of basic human rights," said Cheema, adding that officials had told the politician – a staunch critic of President Pervez Musharraf – that the ban was in the interest of "maintaining public order."

Media reports earlier cited Karachi police as saying the 30-day ban on entering the city was because of "provocative statements" Khan made in the wake of the May 12 clashes.

Violence erupted between opposition supporters and members of Karachi's ruling party, the pro-Musharraf Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), when Pakistan's suspended chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry arrived in the city to address lawyers.

Apart from meeting relatives of those who died, Khan was to attend a political meeting in the nearby city of Hyderabad.

His party's spokesman said that Khan intended to fly to London in June to file a case against the MQM leadership for killing innocent people.

During a recent visit to Karachi, Musharraf had said the tragic events were due to the politicization of his decision to suspend Chaudhry for alleged misconduct.

Critics of the military ruler say the judge was removed to forestall any challenge to his bid for re-election by parliament this autumn.