PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Friday hit out at the government after more PPP activists were arrested in Multan, vowing that the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement's (PDM) November 30 pubic gathering will go ahead.
His statement came in response to a video shared on Twitter by Kasim Gilani, son of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, showing PPP workers being taken in a police van.
"Fascist regime continues to arrest democratic activists in Multan," Bilawal said in a tweet.
"These puppets are scared of jiyalas. Try as they might they cannot stop PPP from marking our foundation day along with PDM leaders on 30th November," he added.
The government and opposition have been at odds over the holding of public rallies at a time when Pakistan is in the throes of a second coronavirus wave. Yusuf Raza Gilani's son, Ali Musa Gilani, was arrested earlier this week for organising the Nov 30 rally in Multan, for which the district administration refused permission citing the high incidence of coronavirus infections.
Bilawal himself had announced on Thursday that he was self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19, but said that he would address the upcoming opposition rally via video link.
Members of the government criticised him for "putting the public at risk" by insisting on holding large public gatherings despite having tested positive for the virus himself.
Overnight on Friday, police sealed Qila Kohna Qasim Bagh Stadium, where the Nov 30 PDM event is scheduled to take place, with at least 30 containers.
Ali Musa Gilani, who was granted bail by a special magistrate on Thursday, said the rally will take place "at every cost" and "at the qila". He said more than 50 workers of PDM member parties had been arrested so far.
Yousuf Raza Gilani also said the public gathering will take place no matter what and accused the government of "making the conditions worse" by stopping the rally.
He said although Bilawal will not attend the rally physically, his sister Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari will address the public gathering on occasion of the PPP's Foundation Day.
Covid-19 and political rallies
Bilawal tested positive for the coronavirus days after the 11-party opposition alliance pushed ahead with the decision to stage a rally in Peshawar despite warnings from the provincial government and the Centre about a second Covid-19 wave.
Last week, there was an extensive war of words between the government and the opposition over the PDM's rally in Peshawar.
Despite a ban by the district administration, the opposition had termed the government more dangerous than the pandemic and PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman had said the government was making desperate attempts to foil the rally on the pretext of Covid-19.
The day the PDM staged their rally, Prime Minister Imran Khan had said the PDM would be responsible for the consequences if it continued with public gatherings despite a surge in Covid-19 cases.
Coronavirus cases and deaths have risen in the country during the past few weeks, with Pakistan reporting more than 3,000 daily cases for the first time since July on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, experts and doctors have warned that intensive care units at major hospitals in the country are running out of beds. Qaisar Sajjad, secretary general of the Pakistan Medical Association, said on Wednesday that hospital ICUs were "running at 95 per cent capacity" and that the situation would "worsen in the next two weeks".