Imran Khan barred from southern Pakistani province
A southern Pakistani province has barred cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan from visiting for a month after he called the head of a political party a "terrorist" in the wake of deadly gunbattles in Karachi earlier this month.
During a television talk-show last week, Khan blamed Altaf Hussain, the founder of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), for bloodshed in Karachi on May 12 in which around 40 people were killed.
Several thousands MQM workers protested in Karachi against Khan's comments, prompting the Sindh government to impose a 30-day ban on Khan's entry out of fear that his visit could affect law and order situation, police said.
"The decision was taken in view of his remarks against the coalition party and reaction by party workers," city police chief Azhar Farooqi told Reuters on Sunday.
"If he visits Karachi, there are chances of disturbance so we'll not let him stay here."
The provincial government in Punjab, also stopped Khan from leaving his home town of Lahore on Sunday.
The MQM is a member of the ruling coalition in both the central and Sindh provincial governments, and represents Urdu speakers who migrated to Pakistan from northern India following the partition of the sub-continent in 1947.
Khan, chief of the Tehrik-e-Insaaf party (Movement of Justice), said the ban was illegal, and motivated by his threat to pursue a legal case against Hussain in London.
"This is MQM's fascist tactics," he told Reuters. "They are trying to scare me."
Khan is a Pashtun, an ethnic group from northwest of Pakistan, though one of the largest urban concentrations of Pashtuns is in Karachi.
The clashes on May 12 broke out between pro-government and opposition party workers during a visit by suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry to Karachi to address lawyers.
The MQM is supporting President Pervez Musharraf's attempts to replace the chief justice, while opposition parties and lawyers have seized on the issue as an attack on the independence of the judiciary.
Despite the political nature of the violence, there are fears that the bloodshed could revive ethnic enmities that ravaged Karachi in the 1980s and early 1990s.