BANNU: Police arrested the head of a charity organisation here on Monday for holding a referendum seeking public opinion about the democratic government’s performance and military intervention in the country.

Mohammad Aslam Khan, chairman of Al-Aslam Foundation, conducted the so-called referendum by setting up a camp outside the Bannu press club, asking the voters (public) whether they were satisfied with the performance of successive democratic governments or wanted Army Chief General Raheel Sharif to play his role in strengthening democratic institutions.

Banners and posters carrying pictures of the army chief and top political leadership were installed and ballot boxes placed at the camp. People were asked to cast their votes on printed ballot papers. The referendum started at 9am and about 200 people cast their votes.

Talking to journalists, Mr Khan claimed that he didn’t want to derail democracy.

However, police intervened and seized the ballot boxes, posters and other material displayed at the camp.

On the directives of Deputy Com­missioner Adil Iqbal, the additional assistant commissioner, along with police, raided the camp, arrested Aslam Khan and his associates and sent them to jail under the MPO (Maintenance of Public Order) ordinance.

Bannu District Police Officer Qasim Ali Khan told Dawn that every citizen had the right to freedom of expression, but holding a referendum had its own procedure and the law didn’t allow an individual to impose the opinion of a few hundred people on the whole nation. He said further investigation would be carried out in this regard.

Additional AC Dawlat Khan told Dawn that the district administration was responsible for maintaining law and order and supremacy of the law and the Constitution. He said Aslam Khan had been detained on charges of creating tension among government institutions.

According to sources, it was the first phase of the so-called referendum starting from Bannu. In the second phase, it was to be held in Kohat and Peshawar and their results were to be announced in Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2016

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