Mass gatherings injustice with people: minister

Published December 1, 2020
Information Minister Senator Shibli Faraz addresses a presser in Islamabad on Monday. — PID
Information Minister Senator Shibli Faraz addresses a presser in Islamabad on Monday. — PID

ISLAMABAD: Expressing the government’s inability to stop the opposition from holding public meetings, Information Minister Senator Shibli Faraz has said that mass gatherings are injustice with the people even if these are held by the ruling party.

Addressing a press conference here on Monday to respond to the public meeting of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) in Multan, the minister slammed the leadership of mainstream opposition parties for flouting the coronavirus SOPs and holding the large rally even without official permission.

He announced that the government would use legal tools to protect the general public from deliberate attempts by the opposition to spread the virus. “The opposition has taken the wrong path,” he said, requesting the citizens to adopt precautions themselves and not to participate in such gatherings.

Mr Faraz claimed that like the people of Peshawar, the residents of Multan too had shown maturity by not going to the PDM public meeting on Monday. He alleged that a large number of poor people were lured to these gatherings and paid for participating in these.

Slams opposition parties for flouting coronavirus SOPs and holding large rally without official permission

“If you look at the participation at a stage set by 11 parties, it is not impressive; that is because these people have lost the confidence of the masses, the PTI alone can gather 10 times that number,” he added.

When reminded that the ruling party had been holding public gatherings in the recent past, the minister said it was injustice with the people even if these were held by them. He asked the citizens to take the pandemic seriously as its spread and infections were not limited to any particular class or segment.

The minister said the PPP leadership was telling the people not to fear the infectious virus, but at the same time their leader Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari was in quarantine after having contracted Covid-19.

He also criticised PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz and said her family members were sitting safe and sound outside the country but she was putting the ordinary citizens of the country at risk of Covid-19 infections. “She [Maryam] is the beneficiary of corruption and wants to copy Benazir Bhutto, even Benazir Bhutto’s son could not follow her.”

Mr Faraz described the PDM rallies as street theatres being held in various cities and towns only to get NRO for the leaders of opposition parties. He said there was no mention of poor people in the speeches made at the PDM Multan rally because “you [opposition] people consider the poor of this country as insects and use them for personal benefits”.

The minister said the leaders of opposition parties behaved like “fish out of water” whenever they were not in power, due to their greed and selfishness. He said there was polarisation in politics. “Yes there is polarisation in politics as on one side there is the PPP and the PML-N, who are corrupt, whereas on the other side we have Imran Khan who wants to take to country on path of progress and bring transparency to the system.”

Responding to the allegation made by Maryam Nawaz that the family members were not allowed to offer last prayers for her grandmother, the minister said there was no pressure or any legal hitch on Nawaz Sharif, Ishaq Dar, Hassan Nawaz or anybody else to come to the country in this regard.

He severely criticised JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and described him as a politician wearing the religious cloak.

The minister also defended phone tapping by security agencies, saying that it was their duty to keep an eye on everybody and it was done in advanced democracies too. “But there is nothing to fear if there is nothing to hide; why should I be worried if my phone is recorded?”

Mr Faraz declined to comment on the maiden political appearance of Aseefa Bhutto-Zardari and said she was young and he did not want to say anything about her.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2020

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