The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) is all set to hold its fourth power show today in Peshawar, despite being refused the permission to hold a public gathering by the local administration, citing an exponential rise in coronavirus cases.
The 11-party opposition alliance’s rally comes amid the provincial government’s warning that it may lodge cases against them if a spike in virus cases is witnessed in the province after the rally.
According to reports, the local administration has shut off internet and mobile phone services in Peshawar, whereas communication has also been jammed at the PDM rally’s venue and adjoining areas.
A police command and control room has been set up for the rally, whereas about 4,000 security personnel have also been deployed.
The PDM’s central leadership has converged on the Bilour House – residence of the ANP’s famed Bilour family – for a luncheon after which they will head to the rally’s venue.
The rally will be addressed by the usual heavyweights, Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) vice president Maryam Nawaz, head of the Jamiat Ulema Islam – Fazl (JUI-F) and PDM Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari among other leading figures of parties that are a part of the opposition’s 11-party alliance – the PDM.
Having addressed previous PDM gatherings from London via video link, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif will not be addressing the Peshawar rally, apparently due to severe kidney pain. The news was confirmed by Maryam Nawaz in response to a tweet on Saturday.
The three-time former premier had excused himself from a PDM meeting held last week for the same reason.
Spokesperson for the PML-N’s K-P chapter, Ikhtiar Wali, while denouncing the roadblocks allegedly put in place on the way to the venue, said that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government has become scared of the PDM’s rallies.
He added that today’s rally will be a referendum against the incumbent government, warning it to not ‘instigate violence’ or it will be the one responsible.
Opp destroying peoples’ lives, livelihoods: PM Imran
Referring to the country’s Covid-19 data, Prime Minister Imran Khan in another tweet on Sunday accused the opposition alliance of “callously destroying peoples’ lives and livelihoods”.
He said the PDM was “deliberately endangering the lives and livelihoods of people, bec if cases continue to rise at the rate we are seeing, we will be compelled to go into complete lockdown…”
Opposition is callously destroying people”s lives & livelihoods in their desperation to get an NRO. Let me make it clear: they can hold a million jalsas but will not get any NRO.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) November 22, 2020
In a video statement, K-P government spokesperson Shaukat Yousafzai, taking an apparent hit at the number of pople present at the venue, said, “I congratulate the pople of Peshawar for rejecting the opposition’s narrative”.
He said this was not a rally, but a conspiracy against the people of Pakistan.
The opposition’s alliance was denied the permission to organise today’s rally by the city administration on Friday.
The deputy commissioner in a statement said Covid-19 positivity rate has exceeded 13 per cent in Peshawar district which is “alarmingly high”.
Any large public gathering is likely to increase the spread of deadly virus, it added.
On Saturday, November 20, Prime Minister Imran Khan and several key federal ministers also criticised the opposition parties’ alliance for allegedly playing with the lives of common people by defying a government ban on its public gathering in Peshawar amid the second wave of the coronavirus.
The prime minister accused the opposition parties of playing reckless politics with people’s safety, saying earlier the opposition had favoured a stricter lockdown but they were now defying court orders and holding a rally when Covid-19 cases were on the rise.
“The same PDM mbrs [members] who had wanted a strict lockdown and criticised me earlier now playing reckless politics with people’s safety,” the premier tweeted, “they are even defying court orders & holding a jalsa when cases are rising dramatically.”
The government’s ban on public gatherings came on November 16, a day after the Gilgit-Baltistan’s elections (G-B). Announcing the ban during a press conference, PM Imran said the decision was taken keeping in view the rapid increase in Covid-19 cases in a fortnight.
Amid charged political scenario, the prime minister said that the government had suspended its rallies, which were planned earlier, in line with the National Coordination Committee (NCC) recommendations that call for ending all activities that don’t affect people’s livelihoods.
However, addressing a press conference in Peshawar, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman maintained that the government was using the issue of coronavirus as an excuse to stop the opposition from staging its public gatherings.
“This illegitimate government itself is a big corona,” the Maulana said. “We speak about Covid-19, but we should also highlight Covid-18,” he added, referring to the PTI government. “Getting rid of this government will be major relief for the nation.”
The JUI-F chief said the PDM would stage a historic rally in Peshawar and not allow its anti-government movement to lose steam at any stage.
Several opposition leaders slammed the government for the ban’s timing, saying the threat of the virus spreading was equally significant when it [the government] was holding its own G-B electioneering rallies.
Addressing a press conference in Gilgit on Thursday, PPP chairman Bilawal said that the Sindh government was the first to announce measures to deal with the Covid-19 outbreak, and it was the prime minister who made them controversial.
“We have to send Imran Khan packing because he has failed on every front, be it Kashmir or Covid-19. The PTI government does not have the capacity to deal with these issues,” he maintained.