A war of word has erupted between the Imran Khan government and Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an 11-party alliance, as the latter has resolved to hold a rally in Peshawar on Sunday, defying a ban imposed by authorities.
Prime Minister Khan, who appears to be rattled by the strong turnout in the rallies and protests orgsed by opposition leaders, has accused them of "playing reckless politics with people's safety" amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The opposition, on the other hand, has highlighted the government's hypocrisy with Pakistan Muslims League-Nawaz (PML-N) spokesperson Azma Bukhari asking why Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's ministers, such as Ali Amin Gandapur, were allowed to hold rallies in Gilgit Baltistan "day and night", reported.
On Friday, Peshawar's deputy commissioner had refused to grant permission for the PDM's public meeting, citing the rising spread of the novel coronavirus in the district.
However, the opposition vowed to defy the ban, warning the district administration that use of force to stop the protesting citizens could spark street battles.
The PDM has held three similar rallies in Gujranwala, Karachi, and Quetta since October 16.
Prime Minister Khan and his Cabinet members on Saturday lambasted the opposition alliance.
"The same PDM members who had wanted a strict lockdown and criticised me earlier (are) now playing reckless politics with people's safety," said Khan.
"They are even defying court orders and holding a (party) when cases are rising dramatically," he said.
Khan's response came on Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar's tweet, in which he sounded an alarm on a rise in Peshawar's coronavirus positivity rate to 13.39 per cent.
Umar said that the PML-N government in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir had declared a complete lockdown for two weeks, while the Pakistan Peoples Party's government had imposed a smart lockdown in four districts of Karachi. "But both parties are adamant on holding a rally in Peshawar. No better example than this of being two-faced," he said.
The opposition leaders retaliated by saying if the "government coronavirus is left unchecked, we will all starve"
PML-N stalwart Rana Sanaullah said that while the coronavirus poses a two per cent threat, the "government coronavirus" carries a risk of 100 per cent. "We must decide which coronavirus is to be risked."
PML-N leader Musaddiq Malik, in a conversation with asked whether the coronavirus can only spread through rallies.
"Tehreek-e-Labbaik was allowed to hold a funeral," he said.
"We have to protest as well as be careful," Malik said, adding the rally will observe social distancing and participants will have to wear a mask.
( With inputs from ANI )
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