Sharif is under growing pressure from opposition parties over his children's offshore bank accounts that were revealed in the Panama Papers leak. Photograph: (Reuters)
Undeterred by the arrests, the opposition leader Imran Khan vowed to hold Nov 2 protests demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's ouster
Pakistani authorities raided a youth convention called by the opposition party, Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf (PTI) as the government banned all public gatherings in the capital Islamabad for two months.
The police charged the activists with batons and arrested 40 party supporters, who were planning a major anti-government protest.
Infuriated by the police action, party chief Imran Khan vowed protests against the crackdown across the country, challenging the government to arrest him.
"Tomorrow I will protest throughout Pakistan, our workers will protest throughout Pakistan, especially over the way women were mishandled," Khan told reporters. "If (the) government wants to arrest me, they may go ahead, but for how long they can keep us inside, we will again hit roads after our release," he asserted.
The party, due to hold a protest on November 2, is demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif step down over recent corruption allegations.
"The government has proved that there is no democracy in Pakistan, it is a monarchy," PTI lawmaker Asad Umar told reporters from the scene. Nazish Altaf, a PTI youth leader, added: "We will not be deterred by arrests and more people will join us on November 2."
The planned protest comes at a sensitive time for Sharif, with Pakistan's Supreme Court due to start hearing a case into the Panama Papers revelations about Sharif's family involvement on November 1. Sharif is under growing pressure from opposition parties over his children's offshore bank accounts that were revealed in the Panama Papers leak.
With a confrontation now appearing inevitable in the days to come, heavy police presence is expected in the capital to deter gatherings.
(WION with inputs from AFP)