ISLAMABAD – Prime Minister Imran Khan and his cabinet members Saturday lambasted the opposition alliance, Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), for moving ahead with the November 22 Peshawar rally despite the threat of Covid-19.
“The same PDM members who had wanted a strict lockdown and criticised me earlier are now playing reckless politics with people’s safety,” said the premier in a tweet.
He said they are even defying court orders and holding a’ jalsa’ when cases are rising dramatically.
On the other hand, the PDM leadership is determined to hold its public meeting today.
A day earlier, Peshawar’s deputy commissioner had refused to grant permission for the PDM’s public meeting, citing the rising spread of the novel coronavirus in the district.
A letter issued by the DC’s office had noted that the coronavirus positivity rate in Peshawar district had exceeded 13 per cent, adding that a public gathering was “likely to further increase the spread of the life-threatening virus”.
However, the opposition vowed to defy the ban, warning the district administration that use of force to stop the protesting citizens could spark street battles.
Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar in his tweet said Peshawar’s Covid-19 positivity ratio was 13.39 per cent a day earlier while there were 202 patients in critical care.
“The PML-N government in Azad Jammu and Kashmir has imposed a complete lockdown for two weeks. The PPP government in Sindh has imposed ‘smart lockdowns’ in four districts in Karachi. However, both the parties are insisting on holding the Peshawar rally,” he said, adding that there was no better example of being “two-faced”.
He added that the opposition would not achieve anything except for endangering the lives and the health of the people by moving forward with its plans. “Perhaps they want to exact revenge from the people of Peshawar,” he said.
Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry called the opposition’s attitude “dangerous”.
“Playing with the lives of the people is no joke. The Tehreek-i-Labbaik also didn’t leave any stone unturned in making Lahore a Covid time bomb. Now, the PML-N and the PPP will create chaos from Peshawar to Multan,” he said.
Minister for Maritime Affairs Syed Ali Haider Zaidi said it was the “height of hypocrisy and irresponsibility” that the PDM was insisting on holding rallies when “Covid-19 cases are rising throughout the country”.
“Earlier, these clowns wanted to shut down everything but now [they are] taking a Trumpian view by ignoring ground realities!”
Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari said it was sad how the PDM was playing “dangerous politics with the people’s lives by insisting on continuing their rallies”.
“When the government was doing smart lockdowns, the same PDM leaders were attacking the government and demanding a complete lockdown.
“But clearly holding jalsas in a desperate attempt to protect their corruption through pressuring for NRO is far more important than preventing exposure of people to Covid-19. They place little value on the lives of ordinary Pakistanis,” she said.
Sharing a picture of the invitation for the engagement of former president Asif Ali Zardari’s older daughter, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill noted that the PPP had made Covid-19 tests mandatory for Bakhtawar’s nuptials scheduled for November 27.
“You consider your lives precious but why do you not care for the lives of the people when you call them to rallies?”
Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz on Saturday said the opposition was playing with health and lives of the people by adopting irresponsible attitude irrespective of spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the opposition’s stubbornness to hold public gatherings despite rising covornavirus cases manifests its non-democratic and irresponsible conduct.
In a tweet on Saturday, he said that the opposition is bent upon demonstrating irresponsibility. The minister said there is no legal and moral justification to hold public meetings after the court and government orders against it. He said putting people’s life in danger for vested interests is the extreme level of selfishness.
He said FIR will be registered against opposition leaders and organisers of the Peshawar public meeting if coronavirus cases rise in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Later while talking to a private news channel, he said the opposition was intentionally playing with lives of the people by insisting to hold their public gatherings in different cities.
The Minister said the government was not feared from opposition political gatherings so it had allowed them to hold public gatherings in different cities.
The government wanted to provide protection to health and lives of the masses, adding opposition should review their decision about holding political meetings during the pandemic because it was collective responsibility to adopt all standard operating procedures (SOPs) which were issued by the government to combat coronavirus.
Coronavirus was not only issue of any single political party but it was matter of the nation so the people should follow SOPs with letter and spirit, he added.
Replying to a question, he said ratio of deadly virus was high in Khyber Pakthunkhawa as compared to other provinces so the government had asked the opposition for canceling political gathering in the larger interest of the country and its people.
Shibli Faraz said the government had already canceled its scheduled political gatherings but opposition was playing with the lives of the people just for gaining personal interests, adding opposition should bring their families in their gatherings but they will never do this.
He said every issue should be discussed in the Parliament as it was the appropriate forum for resolving the matters but opposition parties were using derogatory language against the government.