PM Khan lambasts opposition decision to hold Peshawar rally despite COVID-19 surge

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan during a speech in Islamabad on Feb. 17, 2020. (AFP/File)
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Updated 21 November 2020

PM Khan lambasts opposition decision to hold Peshawar rally despite COVID-19 surge

  • PDM says all attendees will be required to wear face masks at the rally on Sunday
  • At least 42 people died and 2,843 tested positive in 24 hours as second wave grips the country

KARACHI: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and members of his cabinet have strongly criticized the decision of the country’s biggest opposition alliance to hold a rally in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Sunday, despite a government ban on the gathering which cites rising COVID-19 cases.

The opposition alliance has said it will require all attendees to wear face masks at the rally.

“The same PDM mbrs who had wanted a strict lockdown and criticised me earlier now playing reckless politics with people’s safety. They are even defying court orders & holding a jalsa when cases are rising dramatically,” PM Khan tweeted on Saturday.

Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an alliance of 11 political parties, told Arab News on Saturday that its Peshawar rally would go on as planned but with all attendees required to wear masks.

“We are holding the rally but no participant will be allowed to enter without wearing masks,” Muhammad Zubair, spokesperson for Pakistan Muslim League- N leader Nawaz Sharif, told Arab News, and added that special masks with one of Nawaz’s anti-government slogans, ‘Vote Ko Izzat do’ (Respect the Vote) had been arranged for the rally. 

The PDM has been campaigning nationwide to oust the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan and has drawn huge crowds. 

“This government is the representative of a stolen mandate,” Fazlur Rehman, chief of the opposition alliance said on Saturday.

“As we talk about COVID-19, we are also concerned about  COVID-18,” he said, in a reference to the 2018 general elections which PDM leaders say was rigged in favour of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“A historic rally will take place tomorrow in Peshawar,” he continued.

On Friday, Peshawar’s deputy commissioner refused to grant prmission for the PDM rally, and cited the rising spread of coronavirus in the district.

A handout issued by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province’s health department earlier, said an average hike of 12 percent was witnessed in COVID-19 cases in the province in the last three days. 

Numbers of infected people and fatalities across Pakistan are rising to peak levels as the country is gripped in a second coronavirus wave.

“The coronavirus has turned serious due to political gatherings,” Taimur Khan Jhagra, provincial minister for finance and health, said in a statement on Saturday which quoted health professionals to say hospital cases of COVID-19 were exponentially rising.

“Whether we take action or not, we have fulfilled our legal responsibility by not granting permission for holding the rally,” Jhagra said. 

He added that the PTI government had also cancelled its own gatherings in the interests of health. 

But a trust deficit that has reached breaking point between the government and opposition has continued to dominate decisions.

Spokesman Zubair said that at present, the opposition alliance was not ready to believe the government on COVID-19 statistics. 

 “It is the responsibility of the PTI government to brief parliamentary parties with factual situation as the government has inside information,” Zubair told Arab News, and added that the government had only placed a ban on gatherings once its own election campaign in northern Gilgit-Baltistan ended and its own minister held his public rally. 

“There is so much politics that goes on in Pakistan that nobody knows that what the reality is,” Zubair continued.

“The government didn’t do anything and we saw a huge funeral taking place today,” he said, in a reference to the funeral prayers of hardline cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, which was attended by tens of thousands of people in the eastern city of Lahore.

“It (government) hasn’t taken any other action,” Zubair said.

“Are they stopping overcrowded buses? Have they closed malls and shops...Restaurants are open till 10pm... weddings with participations of 300 people is also allowed,” he said.

According to official data, at least 42 people died and 2,843 more were infected with COVID-19 in Pakistan during the last 24 hours-- bringing the total count of infected to over 371,000.

Pakistani Twitter rejoices as archrival India beats Australia in cricket win for the ages

Updated 30 min 31 sec ago

Pakistani Twitter rejoices as archrival India beats Australia in cricket win for the ages

  • Pakistan and India are political foes and have one of the most intense sports rivalries in the world
  • Tuesday’s win by India was unequivocally cheered by Pakistani cricket fans who called it “one of the greatest test match wins of all time”

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani social media users rejoiced on Tuesday as India bagged an incredible three-wicket win in the fourth test decider against Australia.

India’s Rishabh Pant timed his innings to perfection, ramping up the aggression in a stellar 89 as India stormed to a record 328-run chase at the Gabba and became the first team to beat the hosts at the Brisbane stronghold since the West Indies in 1988.

Pakistan and India are political archrivals and fierce opponents in the cricket field. But Tuesday’s win was unequivocally cheered by Pakistani cricket fans on Twitter, who called it one of “the greatest test series and test match wins of all time.”

“From 36 all out in the same series to winning it on Australia soil. Wow,” former cricketer and fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar wrote.

“Investing in your players, giving them financial security, protecting them, giving them exposure, having A team tours is eventually bound to pay off. Well done India,” said cricket manager Rehan ulHaq.

“India basically pulled off one of the greatest test series and test match wins of all time,” said Uzair Younus, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. “To win Down Under [Australia] is an achievement on its own. But to do it when several first-team players are out injured is a whole new level of achievement. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.”

“Given results, their injuries, and lack thereof of the home side, this Indian team is probably the greatest from South Asia to tour Australia,” said Umair Javed, an assistant professor at LUMS, Pakistan’s most prestigious private university.

“Cricket is the winner (and Australia the loser),” Javed said in another tweet.

“What a fight back by Indian cricket team in the series, they’ve played quality cricket. From 36-all out in first test to 2-1 up. Commendable. Love and respect from Pakistan,” Twitter user Taliha said, posting one of thousands of tweets praising the Indian team’s performance.

“Tremendous cricket by Indians,” Haider Rasool wrote. “Love from Pakistan.”

One Indian Twitter user posted: “Thank you Pakistan. Today’s win is ever more special because of support from neighbor.”

Strained relations between the two nations, who were one country before the partition of British India split them into India and Pakistan in 1947, and a decades-long dispute over the Himalayan valley of Kashmir conflict, has laid the foundations of one of the most intense sports rivalries in the world.

Pakistan and Indian have not played a bilateral Test series since 2008 when already brittle ties were shattered by the Mumbai terror attacks.