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War of words erupts after govt refuses permission for PDM rally

PESHAWAR: The opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) on Friday vowed to defy government ban on its public gathering in Peshawar on Sunday, warning the district administration that use of force to stop the protesting citizens could spark street battles.

Rallies across the country will be held as the PDM planned until the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government is removed, representatives of the opposition parties declared while speaking at a joint press conference at Peshawar Press Club.

Pakistan Peoples Party’s central information secretary Dr Nafeesa Shah at a separate presser also warned the government against playing with the emotions of the masses, asking the administration to allow the 11-party opposition alliance to hold its Peshawar rally in a ‘peaceful’ manner.

Friday saw a flurry of statements and press conference soon after the Peshawar deputy commissioner refused to allow the opposition, which had earlier held public meetings in cities of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan, to hold their rally scheduled for Nov 22 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s capital.

In a rejoinder to PDM’s request for permission, the Peshawar DC said: “The Covid-19 positivity rate [in] District Peshawar has presently exceeded 13%, which is alarmingly high and any large public gathering is likely to further increase the spread of life-threatening virus. The undersigned regrets to inform you that permission for the said event has not been granted.”

Just two days ago, Railways Minister Shaikh Rashid Ahmed while holding a press conference in Islamabad had advised the opposition leaders to enter into a dialogue with the government to steer the country out of the political impasse.

Accompanied by PPP Senator Rubina Khalid, Ms Shah told the presser in Peshawar that PDM’s rallies had baffled the PTI government that had offered to resolve issues through dialogue.

Expressing serious concern over the increasing prices of life-saving drugs, food items and other essential commodities, the PPP central information secretary said the existing inflation was the outcome of bad governance.

She said the government was trying to hide behind the pandemic but warned that it would not find any route to escape.

About the spread of virus, Ms Shah said political parties had advised all their workers to take necessary measures to ensure their safety.

The PPP leader alleged that Gilgit-Baltistan election once again proved that the PTI had come to power through election engineering. To disrupt the anti-government movement being run by the people of Pakistan, the rulers were trying to use ‘Covid engineering’, she said in reference to the restriction on their public gathering.

Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl’s KP chapter chief Senator Maulana Atta-ur-Rehman, Awami National Party’s KP general secretary Sardar Hussain Babak, PPP’s KP president Humayun Khan, Qaumi Watan Party’s provincial chapter chairman Sikandar Hayat Khan Sherpao, KP information secretary of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Ikhtyar Wali Khan, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party representative Mukhtiar Yousufzai, Jamiat Ahle Hadith representative Dr Zakir also spoke during the press conference.

They condemned the administration for turning down the permission for the Sunday gathering and said the rulers were using different pretexts to disturb the people’s movement against the government.

They warned the government that any attempt to create hurdles in the holding of PDM’s meetings would spark street protests.

The JUI-F’s KP chief said the removal of banners and posters and denying permission for holding the public rally were the tactics being used by the government to pressure the PDM to cancel its events.

“We are ready to go to extreme point against government,” the JUI-F leader declared, demanding the establishment to stop supporting the PTI government.

ANP’s Babak said it was fundamental right of the people to hold peaceful meetings. Leaders of the ruling PTI, which did not take any precautionary measure at all while recently holding public meetings in Gilgit-Baltistan last week, were asking the PDM not to hold meetings due to the pandemic.

QWP’s Sherpao and PML-N’s Khan described the PTI government more dangerous than Covid-19, saying that it was time to get rid of ‘Covid-18’.

Earlier addressing a press conference in Islamabad, federal Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid had suggested the opposition parties to hold talks with PM Khan to end political impasse. “If you don’t hold dialogue with the prime minister, the narrative of [PML-N supremo] Nawaz Sharif will be buried,” Mr Rashid warned, adding that approaching a “closed tunnel” was not a wise step as it could lead to a “disastrously dangerous situation”.

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