Govt, PDM row over Peshawar rally amid pandemic

Updated 22 Nov 2020

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While Prime Minister Imran Khan criticised the opposition parties for insisting on holding their public meeting in Peshawar, PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman said the government was making desperate attempts to foil the rally. — File photo
While Prime Minister Imran Khan criticised the opposition parties for insisting on holding their public meeting in Peshawar, PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman said the government was making desperate attempts to foil the rally. — File photo

• Imran accuses PDM of being reckless
• Opposition terms govt more dangerous than coronavirus

ISLAMABAD: The nat­ion on Saturday witnessed an extensive war of words between the government and the opposition with Prime Minister Imran Khan accusing the opposition of “playing reckless politics with people’s safety” and Pak­istan Demo­cratic Move­ment (PDM) leaders vowing to go ahead with their planned power show in the ruling PTI’s stronghold of Peshawar on Sunday (today) despite a ban imposed by the district administration.

The Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), which is not part of the 11-party PDM, also annou­nced that it would hold its already scheduled rally against inflation and the government’s ‘wrong policies’ in Swat on Sunday (today).

Following the prime minister’s tweet in which he criticised the opposition parties for insisting on holding their public meeting in Peshawar amid reports of rising Covid-19 cases, a number of his cabinet members also took to Twitter to lambaste the opposition.

Federal Minister for Information Shibli Faraz warned that an FIR (first information report) would be lodged against the opposition leaders and organisers of the Peshawar rally if Covid-19 cases rose in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

On the other hand, the opposition termed the government more dangerous than the pandemic and PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman said the government was making desperate attempts to foil Pesh­awar’s rally on the pretext of Covid-19, but the people of KP could not be deterred through such tactics.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Khan tweeted that “the same PDM members who had wanted a strict lockdown and criticised me earlier [are] now playing reckless politics with people’s safety”.

“They are even defying court orders and holding a jalsa when cases are rising dramatically,” Mr Khan added.

Mr Faraz accused the opposition of “exhibiting irresponsibility”, saying that the opposition’s insistence on holding the rally was a “reflection of their undemocratic thinking and irresponsible attitude”.

“There is no legal or moral justification for moving forward with the rally despite the orders issued by the government and the court,” he said.

Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry termed 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.

Sharing a picture of the invitation for the engagement ceremony of former president Asif Zardari’s daughter Bakhtawar Bhutto-Zardari to be held in Karachi on Nov 27, Special Assistant to the PM on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill said the PPP had made Covid-19 test mandatory for participation in the ceremony.

“You consider your lives precious but why do you not care for the lives of the people when you call them to rallies?” he asked.

Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar, who is also the head of the National Command and Operation Centre for Covid-19, through a tweet on Friday warned that Peshawar’s 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 parties are insisting on holding the Peshawar rally,” he said.

“Peshawar Covid positivity ratio 13.39% yesterday. Patients in critical care: 202. Of these, 50 on low flow oxygen, 134 on high flow and 18 on ventilators. 14 new critical patients just yesterday. PDM response: we will be safe on the stage so who cares what happens to citizens,” tweeted Mr Umar.

He said the opposition would not achieve anything except for endangering lives and health of the people by moving forward with its plan.

Since the PTI had won all the seats from the city in the 2013 and 2018 elections, “perhaps, they (the opposition leaders) want to exact revenge from the people of Peshawar”, Mr Umar said.

Responding to the prime minister’s tweet, PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb in a statement said the people of Pakistan were suffering unprecedented crises of sugar, flour, electricity, gas and medicines “because of Imran’s reckless policies.”

She said the prime minister’s “ploy of using Covid-19” would not stop PDM public meetings.

“The public meeting will be held, no matter what, on the scheduled date, time and venue with all precautions required,” she said. “Imran’s reckless policies have made the nation restless and it wants him out of power.”

Similarly, PPP vice-president Sherry Rehman said the opposition would get the nation “rid of both Imran Khan and coronavirus”. She said previously Mr Khan used to criticise the PPP government in Sindh for taking the pandemic seriously and “now when the government is slipping out of his hands, he has started crying over coronavirus”.

PPP secretary general Nayyar Bokhari termed the “Tweet Sarkar” more dangerous for the nation than Covid-19. He said the Peshawar public meeting would prove to be a referendum against the government.

Talking to reporters at the JUI-F Secretariat in Peshawar, Maulana Fazl asked the establishment to withdraw its support to the “puppet government”.

“Donald Trump was sent home by the Americans and our Trump would soon be shown the door,” he said in a reference to Prime Minister Khan.

“We consider this government a threat to the very existence of the country and if something happens to the state then the establishment would be equally responsible,” he said.

Awami National Party chief Asfandyar Wali through a tweet urged the party workers to reach the venue of the public meeting holding red flags and wearing red caps and red dresses.

Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2020