PDM goes ahead with Peshawar rally despite virus warnings | Pakistan Today

PDM goes ahead with Peshawar rally despite virus warnings

–Govt to be sent packing at the start of next year, claims Bilawal

–Fazl lashes out at govt over deteriorating relations with allied states

ISLAMABAD/PESHAWAR: Despite being warned against holding a rally in Peshawar due to fears of it becoming a catalyst for the spread of Covid-19, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) went ahead with the rally on Sunday, with the organisers of the event saying that they made it mandatory for all attendees to wear face masks.

The central leadership of the PDM, including Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Maryam Nawaz, Mahmood Khan Achakzai, Aimal Wali Khan, Sardar Akhtar Mengal and Aftab Sherpao, were all present on stage, with a series of speeches by various political leaders delivered one after another.

Maryam Nawaz did not address the crowd as she learned about the demise of her grandmother in London, and immediately left for Lahore.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said that the ruling party would be sent packing by the start of the new year.

“A voice is rising from within Gilgit-Baltistan, saying ‘do not rob the vote’,” Bilawal added, carrying on the opposition’s narrative of election rigging in Gilgit-Baltistan. “The entire [Khyber] Pakhtunkhwa is demanding ‘go, Imran, go!’,” he claimed, adding: “This is the land of the brave, the honourable.”

Bilawal also lamented the fact that the government has not provided enough funds to the region to properly develop it. He observed that those displaced from their homes due to terrorism and military operations had not been rehabilitated. Further speaking on terrorism, he said that the PDM “will not allow this puppet to let it take hold again”.

He also lambasted the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) for the burdens that the common man has had to face in obtaining essential goods. “First there was a flour, sugar, and oil crisis, and now a gas crisis will arise,” he said.

The PPP chairman also said that the province, despite producing a sizeable share of crude oil that was distributed across the country, was not receiving royalties. He noted that the province also produced gas and hydel power that exceeded KP’s requirements, yet it was not being paid its fair share.

He also questioned why the region was not enjoying its share of benefits from the success of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.

“These rulers shouted the most against corruption but turned out to be the most corrupt,” he said, then turned his sights on the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

“NAB does not see how Peshawar’s BRT is the country’s most expensive metro system and its buses catch fire on their own. It doesn’t see corruption in Malam Jaba, or how buildings in New York were built through sewing machines,” he said on the occasion.

Bilawal said that the country cannot have a strong accountability system until “there is one law for all citizens and until there are same courts and laws for politicians, army generals and judges”.

Fazl, while speaking to the rally, said that due to flawed foreign policy of the incumbent government, Pakistan’s relations with its allies are deteriorating.

He said that no country including UAE, Saudi Arabia and China among others is ready to trust Pakistan, adding, “Today, Saudi Arabia and UAE are demanding Pakistan to return their money.”

He expressed sorrow over the death of Nawaz Sharif’s mother. “I want to offer my condolences to the Sharif family for the great loss,” he said.

The JUI-F chief said that the attendance of KP’s people in large numbers in this rally is a referendum against the PTI government and shows that people have “refused the government which came into power through rigged election”.

“We respect our armed forces as a defence institution, but if it tries to become a political institution then we have every right to criticise it… we give you a deadline to withdraw your support of the PTI-led government and focus on your professional responsibilities,” he remarked.

“Like people in the US rejected President Trump in elections, Insha’Allah people [of this country] will also reject Pakistani Trump [Imran Khan],” he added.

Giving an example of former Soviet Union president Mikhail Gorbachev, Fazl said that PM Imran wants to disintegrate Pakistan.

The PDM chief also said that the Indian government revoked the autonomous status of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) because PM Imran compromised on the Kashmir issue. “Imran Khan had prayed for the success of Narendra Modi in elections and he sold the Kashmir cause,” he claimed.

Fazl said that the incumbent government is taking very “sensitive decisions” without taking the people of the country into confidence. “Nowhere in the democratic countries, political leaders have the right to change the geography of the country,” he said while referring to the government’s decisions of merging erstwhile FATA into KP and making GB a fifth province of the country.

The KP government on Friday rejected a request by the anti-government alliance for a no-objection certificate to hold the event at Dalazak Road, citing the worrying rise in fresh infections for its decision.

Peshawar Deputy Commissioner Muhammad Ali Asghar, citing a November 2 notification of the provincial government advising restricting large public gatherings, refused to grant permission for the event.

“The Covid-19 positivity rate for district Peshawar has presently exceeded 13 percent, which is alarmingly high, and any large public gathering is likely to further increase the spread of [the] life-threatening virus,” he had said through a notification.

“Keeping in view the above, and after considering all aspects, and to safeguard human lives due to potential spread of the virus, the undersigned [Peshawar deputy commissioner] regrets to inform you that permission for the said event has not been granted,” the notification had added.

Pakistan on Sunday recorded 59 deaths from the contagious disease, the highest single-day fatality count recorded since July 15.

According to the government’s Covid-19 portal, 2,665 people had tested positive for the disease in the past 24 hours, taking the national caseload to 374,173 infections and 7,662 deaths since the outbreak was first reported in March.

For the past several weeks, health authorities have been sounding the alarm over a second wave of the disease. To restrict the spread of the virus, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday imposed restrictions on public gatherings and calling on citizens to observe the government-devised health guidelines.

He had also suspended PTI’s public gatherings and asked other political parties to follow suit.

However, the PDM vowed to resist any efforts to prevent the rally from proceeding. On Saturday, PDM president and JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman claimed the government was making “desperate attempts” to foil Pesh­awar’s rally on the “pretext of coronavirus”.

“But the people of KP could not be deterred through such tactics,” he had said.

Fazl’s statement came after PM Imran assailed the opposition for insisting on holding the public meeting and “playing reckless politics with people’s safety”.

Following the premier, Minister for Information Senator Shibli Faraz warned a First Information Report (FIR) would be lodged against the opposition leaders and organisers of the rally if virus cases rose in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

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

It is pertinent to mention that along with the danger of aggravating the spread of Covid-19, the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) a day earlier had warned the party leadership of the threat posed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) against the rally. Specifically, the issued alert had said that the rally could be targeted by the TTP suicide bomber or IED blast at Kabootar Chowk near Ring Road – where the rally is going to take place – or adjoining areas.

Reportedly, the leadership had tightened the security of the event after the warning, such as the fact that the participants of the public rally had been directed to park their vehicles some 1.5km away from the jalsahgah, while the PDM leaders would be allowed to enter with their own cars. Furthermore, ring road had been closed from Charsadda to the motorway, while shops and the CNG stations on road had been closed due to the threat alert.