• PM allows opposition rally in Gujranwala
• PML-N says official permission not required
• Minister concerned over rising coronavirus cases
ISLAMABAD: Allowing the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) to hold its rally in Gujranwala on Oct 16, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday said people would judge for themselves how ‘strong’ the opposition was.
He directed the authorities concerned to allow the public gathering during the meeting of the special committee formed to deal with the opposition’s anti-government movement.
Talking to Dawn on condition of anonymity, a participant of the meeting said: “The prime minister was of the view that the opposition be allowed to hold its public meeting as it (opposition) will expose itself by doing so.”
The meeting, however, insisted the organisers should ensure that standard operating procedures were observed as the country was experiencing resurgence in coronavirus cases.
The source said Prime Minister Khan termed the joint opposition “a gang of dacoits”, which was starting an anti-government campaign just to hide its corruption, adding that the public would see the opposition’s ‘show of power’ itself.
The opposition, on the other hand, has objected to the prime minister’s statement of allowing it to hold the gathering, saying it did not require the government’s permission for it.
The PDM was scheduled to hold its first public rally against the government in Quetta on Oct 11 but due to ‘security’ reasons, the plan was dropped. Later, the main opposition parties — Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — decided to hold separate rallies on Oct 16 in Gujranwala and in Karachi on Oct 18, respectively, but this too did not work out, with the PDM finally deciding to hold a grand gathering in Gujranwala on Oct 16.
A few days ago, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah, in a statement, had said the government should not allow the opposition to hold the rally, whereas Information Minister Shibli Faraz, after the federal cabinet’s meeting last Tuesday, declared that the government would permit the opposition to go ahead with its programme.
Meanwhile, Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar said, politically, the government did not fear the opposition’s movement against it, but as the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Covid-19 chairman he was concerned about the spread of coronavirus.
Speaking at a TV show, Mr Umar said data showed that Covid-19 infections, which had declined a couple of months ago, were rising again.
He appealed to the opposition parties to avoid holding huge gatherings and follow SOPs like social distancing and wearing of masks during their protests, adding that “if the opposition wants to launch a movement against the government, it does not need to fill up grounds”.
The minister said 10 deaths each were reported on four different days this month throughout the country.
He said the opposition could not topple the government and would never resign from the assemblies.
On the other hand, PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said Imran Khan did not have the power to obstruct PDM’s public meeting.
She said people had become frustrated from facing one crisis after another brought on them by who she called “looters” in the government.
The prime minister’s statement of allowing the opposition to hold its public gathering was a “desperate attempt” to mask his embarrassment, she added.
“This is just like how the government had earlier allowed airing of Nawaz Sharif’s speech and then asking Pemra to ban it,” Ms Aurangzeb said.
PM meets NCM delegation
Prime Minister Imran Khan has said there was a need for everyone to unite and defeat anti-state elements who were striving to spread disorder in society on the pretext of religion.
He was talking to a delegation of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM), led by its chairman Chela Ram Kewlani, that called on him at the Prime Minister’s House.
The delegation comprised Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noorul Haq Qadri, Maulana Syed Mohammad Abdul Khabir Azad, Mufti Gulzar Ahmad Naeemi, Jiapal Chhabria, Vishnu Raja Qawi, Dr Sarah Safdar, Archbishop Sebastian Frances Shaw, Albert David, Dr Mampal Singh, Sarup Singh, Roshan Khurshid Bharucha, Dawood Shah, Islamic Ideology Council Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz and Parliamentary Secretary Shanila Rath.
Matters relating to further strengthening NCM’s role were discussed in the meeting.
The prime minister said the government was committed to protecting the constitutional and legal rights of citizens belonging to the minority community and would take all measures in this regard.
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday feared the country might face a second wave of the pandemic in winter and directed the Centre and provinces to devise an effective strategy to deal with it.
“Reports of the second wave of the virus coming from different countries are evident of the fact that chances of the spread of coronavirus increases in winter,” he said while presiding over a meeting on Covid-19.
The meeting was told that data from the last six months had shown that the virus was re-emerging due to which smart lockdown was imposed in Islamabad, Karachi and Azad Kashmir.
It suggested banning all public gatherings, except educational institutions and economic activities.
An official statement of a separate NCOC meeting said the number of active cases in the country as of Monday was 8,552 after 385 more people tested positive.
According to the latest update, 10 patients died on Sunday, including six in hospitals,
Around 26,951 tests were conducted throughout the country on Sunday - 8,497 in Sindh, 11,082 in Punjab, 3,141 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 2,855 in Islamabad Capital Territory, 661 in Balochistan, 232 in Gilgit-Baltistan and 483 in Azad Kashmir.
So far 304,185 people have recovered from the virus, making it a significant count.
Published in Dawn, October 13th, 2020