Peshawar, November 22
The newly-formed Pakistan Democratic Movement, an alliance of 11 Opposition parties, will hold its anti-government rally here on Sunday, despite being denied permission by the city administration owing to a spike in COVID-19 cases in the country.
The rally will be addressed by the usual heavyweights, Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) vice president Maryam Nawaz, head of the Jamiat Ulema Islam – Fazl (JUI-F) and PDM Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari among other leading figures of parties that are a part of the alliance, the Express Tribune reported on Sunday.
Pakistan’s former prime minister and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, who addressed the previous PDM rally from London via a video link, will not be addressing the Peshawar rally, apparently due to severe kidney pain. The news was confirmed by his daughter Maryam in response to a tweet on Saturday, the report said.
Prime Minister Imran Khan criticised the PDM on Sunday, saying the Opposition alliance was “callously destroying peoples’ lives and livelihoods”.
“Opposition is callously destroying people’s lives & livelihoods in their desperation to get an NRO. Let me make it clear: they can hold a million jalsas but will not get any NRO,” he said in a tweet.
In a short statement on Friday, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, which is in power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa through Deputy Commissioner of Peshawar, said that the second wave of coronavirus had taken an “alarming” shape in the region.
“We have to protect the lives of the people first. Therefore, the Opposition parties cannot be allowed to hold the rally at the cost of peoples’ lives,” it said.
Responding to the government’s decision, central secretary information of the Pakistan Peoples Party Nafeesa Shah said the PDM rally will be held as per its schedule on November 22.
Selected rulers will not be allowed to hide behind the COVID-19 pandemic, Shah had said.
The government’s ban on public gatherings came on November 16, a day after the Gilgit-Baltistan’s elections. Announcing the ban during a press conference, the prime minister said the decision was taken keeping in view the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in a fortnight.
Addressing a press conference in Peshawar, JUI-F chief Rehman said that the government was using the issue of coronavirus as an excuse to stop the Opposition from staging its power show.
“This illegitimate government itself is a big corona. We speak about COVID-19, but we should also highlight COVID-18,” he said, referring to the year PTI government came into power “Getting rid of this government will be major relief for the nation,” he said.
On September 20, the leaders of 11 major Opposition parties announced the formation of the PDM and launch of a three-phased anti-government movement under an “action plan” starting with countrywide public meetings, protest demonstrations and rallies before a “decisive long march” towards Islamabad in January 2021.
The Opposition leaders had announced that they would use all political and democratic options, including no-confidence motions and en mass resignations from the parliament to seek “the selected prime minister’s resignation and an end to the role of the establishment in politics.” They also issued a 26-point declaration in the form a resolution containing various demands, including “end of establishment’s interference in politics”, new free and fair elections after the formulation of election reforms with no role of armed forces and intelligence agencies.
The demands also included the release of political prisoners, withdrawal of cases against journalists, implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism, speeding up of the projects under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and across-the-board accountability under a new accountability law. PTI