• Reiterates stance on NRO • Buzdar says Punjab people have rejected opposition’s negative politics
LAHORE: Soon after the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)’s public meeting at Minar-i-Pakistan on Sunday, Prime Minister Imran Khan lambasted the joint opposition for “endangering people’s lives during Covid-19 spike” and reiterated that he would not give an NRO to the opposition leaders.
“Let me once again reiterate: I will never give an NRO. Whatever future plans of further blackmail PDM may have, my message is categorical: There will never be an NRO from my govt no matter what tactics the looters devise,” the prime minister said in a tweet.
“Pathetic. PDM spent so much money, time, effort & displayed utter callousness by endangering ppl’s lives during COVID19 spike — showing the scant regard they have for citizens’ safety & well-being. All this just to blackmail me into giving them an NRO to save their looted wealth,” he said in another tweet.
The representatives of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI)’s federal and provincial governments termed the PDM public meeting a “flop show” and said people of Punjab had rejected the opposition’s narrative.
“Thank you large-hearted Lahorites for rejecting the failed politics of the opposition parties,” Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar said in a statement.
“The people of Lahore have given their verdict by staying aloof from the PDM’s agenda of creating chaos. The PDM should repent for indulging in negative politics after seeing the masses’ rejection at Minar-i-Pakistan,” he said.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for political communication Dr Shahbaz Gill tweeted: “Three months campaign, Rs1.25 billion investment, 11 parties and result a flop show”.
“The PDM’s journey ended as its negative narrative balloon deflated and Prime Minister Imran Khan succeeded in exposing the thieves,” he said in another tweet.
Talking to a TV channel after the PDM public meeting, federal Information Minister Shibli Faraz claimed there were only 15,000 people in the show. Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said it was the smallest political gathering at the historic place. Throughout the day, Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and his special assistant on information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan remained busy in issuing statements and later holding a couple of pressers on the PDM’s rally.
Chiding the opposition leaders for “amassing ill-gotten money”, Mr Buzdar said the opposition’s wish to get an NRO would never come true. He said the opposition parties’ stubbornness to hold public meetings amid threat of coronavirus would only propel the spread of the virus.
The chief minister said the nation would remember the PDM for its “save corruption” and “spread coronavirus” agenda and added that the alliance would miserably fail as the people of Punjab, particularly Lahore, had rejected its politics.
In a tweet around mid-day, the chief minister said: “How come those busy in amassing corruption money for the past 40 years are gathering at the sacred place called Minar-e-Pakistan. The NRO seekers are putting innocent people’s lives in danger while promoting their ‘save corruption, spread coronavirus’ slogan. The law will take its course.”
Mr Buzdar said Covid-19 patients’ admission to hospitals was multiplying and number of deaths caused by the virus was increasing but the opposition was busy promoting its negative political agenda.
Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid said the 11 parties’ joint public meeting had failed to match the PTI’s public gatherings.
She regretted that the opposition parties had adopted a callous attitude by exposing people to coronavirus infection when it was touching its peak. “You (PDM) have played with the lives of people by holding the public meeting and now must take responsibility of rise in infections and deaths of unwary people,” the health minister said.
Dr Firdous Awan said the opposition parties did not stop risking the lives of people and added that the law would take its course. She said the organisers, speakers and facilitators of the PDM public meeting would be brought to the book for organising the unlawful assembly.
“A few thousand people, who gathered at the PDM public meeting should voluntarily quarantine themselves for at least three days,” she said.
Dr Awan said the Punjab government had given the PDM free hand to bring people to its public meeting so that the alliance could be exposed at both fronts – the number of people participating in its public meeting and its vested interest of “corruption-covering” agenda.
“Maryam Nawaz has failed in her plan of creating unrest, chaos and law and order situation in Lahore to protect Sharif family’s ill-gotten money,” Dr Awan said.
Punjab Law Minister Basharat Raja and Dr Awan say the nation and PML-N workers were waiting for the announcement of a long march but the PDM leadership did not have any future strategy to keep its “chaotic” movement going.
Speaking at a news conference after the PDM rally, Dr Awan condemned Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai’s remarks against the Lahorites and regretted that the PDM leadership remained tight-lipped and did not criticise Mr Achakzai.
She said the traitors would now be dealt with an iron hand and added that the PTI government would not be blackmailed by the joint opposition.
Dr Awan said the PDM leadership had only caused the spread of coronavirus infection in different cities as a majority of the participants of the public meeting participants had come from different cities. “The government will follow its “trace, test and quarantine” policy to check the spread of coronavirus,” she said.
Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2020