Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar on Saturday urged the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) to delay their Dec 13 Lahore jalsa in light of terror threat alerts and the coronavirus situation and called upon the opposition to resolve issues through dialogue.
Speaking to the media in Lahore, the Punjab chief minister urged the opposition alliance to discuss their issues through dialogue and not by "compromising or playing with people's lives".
Buzdar said the current coronavirus situation in Lahore was very grave and the positivity rate was more than 46 per cent. "It is not appropriate to play with the people's lives like this and permission [for the rally] will not be given".
Addressing the opposition, he said nowhere in the world are protests and gatherings being held.
"Why are you doing them, are they happening anywhere else that you can justify yourself? What is the need for this, is there some kind of emergency?"
He stated that the government will deal with the PDM in accordance with the law and its provisions.
Meanwhile, Punjab Law Minister Basharat Raja said the PDM was not allowed to hold the public meeting in the light of the directives issued by the National Command and Control Centre.
"Action will be taken against those who take the law into their own hands. The PDM should avoid meeting in view of corona and security concerns," he said.
'Govt has decided to expose the opposition'
Addressing a press conference later in the day, Special Assistant to the Chief Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said that opposition party workers had broken into the ground at Minar-i-Pakistan and started making arrangements for tomorrow's rally even though the provincial government has denied them permission.
"The government has decided that we will expose them. I invite the media [that] you will not see a single container on any street in Lahore. No street will be blocked to stop [the opposition] from holding a rally."
She maintained that the government will facilitate party workers as long as they abide by the law. "Under the Punjab Infectious Diseases Act, any kind of assembly has been prohibited."
She added the provincial government was responsible to enforce the recent orders passed by the court and issued by the National Command and Control Centre regarding public gatherings in light of rising Covid-19 cases.
Awan said that the route from Jati Umra, as well as all entry and exit points in the city, will be monitored through CCTV cameras. "These cameras will register your black actions. Whoever takes the law into their own hands will be dealt with accordingly."
Terror threat issued
The National Counter Terrorism Authority has also warned of a possible terrorist attempt on Dec 13 in Lahore.
Two separate notifications issued on Dec 9 said that the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) may target the PDM's Lahore rally.
"Reportedly, TTP terrorists are coordinating to carry out a terrorist activity on Dec 13. Although details regarding the place of the terrorist activity and likely targets is not available, the date appears to be significant as a huge public gathering is expected at Minar-i-Pakistan.
"After the failure of their first plan in Peshawar, these terrorists are planning to shit their operatives [...] and logistics towards another place (most likely Lahore) for carrying out a large-scale terrorist activity against an unspecified target," one of the notifications reads.
According to the second notification issued, a meeting of HIA officials took place across the western border on Dec 9 and "decided to upsurge terrorist activities in Pakistan".
"As per available information, HIA may target PDM gatherings/rallies; particularly the one scheduled in Lahore on Dec 13. Furthermore, it may also carry out assassinations of senior political personalities associated with PDM," it said.
Both of the notifications called for heightened security measures and increased vigilance to thwart any possible attempts.
Bilawal rules out dialogue with govt
A day earlier, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari ruled out dialogue with the government, adding that the PDM will enter the "second phase" of its anti-government campaign after the Lahore rally.
"The time for dialogue [with the government] has long passed. When they talk about reconciliation, they do it out of fear," he said.
"They are cowards who can't face the people. They must be getting intelligence reports about the number of people gearing up to march to Islamabad," he remarked.
He said that the "first phase" of the 11-party opposition alliance's anti-government campaign has been successful, adding that the PDM would move forward with the "second phase" after December 13.