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PDM vows to hold Peshawar rally despite warnings of legal action

By News Desk
November 21, 2020

Ag Agencies

PESHAWAR/ISLAMABAD: A defiant Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) vowed on Friday that it would go ahead with its Peshawar rally tomorrow (Sunday), after the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government warned it would take legal action against the anti-government alliance’s leadership if it violated a ban on political gatherings — put in place by the Centre to check surging coronavirus infections.

The political tug-of-war came as the country’s active Covid infections rose to 33,562 after 2,738 people tested positive in the 24-hour-period leading to Friday, according to the National Command and Operation Centre’s daily situation update. Thirty-six people lost their lives due to the disease in the same period.

Citing coronavirus fears and the Covid-19 positivity rate for Peshawar “exceeding 13 per cent”, Peshawar Deputy Commissioner Ali Asghar turned down the PDM’s request to hold a rally on November 22. The memo was addressed to PDM leaders including Faisal Karim Kundi, Sardar Hussain Babak, Ataul Haq Darwaish, Murtaza Javed Abbasi and Hashim Babar through focal person Abdul Jalil Jan.

Later, in a statement, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government spokesman Kamran Bangash said the “law would take its course” if the PDM’s leaders tried to violate the law. Bangash said the government had the authority to take legal action against the PMD leaders under the “pandemic ordinance”, if they were to take the law into their hands by holding public gatherings despite the ban.

He said the opposition leaders “need to be sensible of the situation” in the wake of the second wave of Covid-19 and while the government did not want to bar the opposition from holding public rallies, its aim was to protect people from the deadly virus. KP’s Minister for Labour Shaukat Yousafzai too warned the PDM leadership of punitive action if they went ahead with their rally. He said cases would be filed against the PDM leadership and the organisers if people were affected from corona.

“The opposition’s response is totally non-serious towards deadly coronavirus endangering public lives,” he added. “The second wave of the coronavirus is more severe than the earlier, but the opposition leadership is making joke of it.”

However, the PDM’s focal person in Peshawar, Abdul Jalil Jan, said the rally would be held as planned on November 22. He said the alliance will not tolerate any sort of ban from the authorities and said holding political rallies is a “fundamental right” under the Constitution.

Federal ministers Sheikh Rashid and Shibli Faraz also issued their own separate recriminations. Rashid said if the opposition thought it would damage the government “by spreading coronavirus [via its rally]”, it was mistaken, while Faraz echoed the KP government’s warnings that the leadership and organisers would be held responsible if precious lives were lost due to the rally and prayed to God to give them wisdom.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz however, just issued a cryptic tweet. “While a mask gives you protection from Covid-19, ‘Vote ko izzat do’ narrative and struggle will protect you from ‘Covid-18’ and all such future attempts, Insha’Allah. Protect yourself, protect your vote.