Criticising the Pakistan Democratic Movement for its insistence on holding a jalsa despite rising coronavirus cases in Peshawar, Prime Minister Imran Khan accused opposition leaders of “playing reckless politics with people’s safety”.
“The same PDM members who wanted a strict lockdown and criticised me earlier are now playing reckless politics with people’s safety,” the premier tweeted early Saturday.
“They are even defying court orders and holding a jalsa when [coronavirus] cases are rising dramatically,” he added.
Peshawar coronavirus positivity rate at 13.39%
The premier was quote tweeting Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar.
Umar, who also heads the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC), had tweeted earlier that the COVID-19 positivity rate in Peshawar had touched 13.39% on Friday. He said there were 202 patients in critical care in the provincial capital, out of which 50 were on low flow oxygen while 134 on high flow and 18 on ventilators.
“14 new critical patients arrived just yesterday,” he continued. “PDM response: we will be safe on the stage so who cares what happens to citizens.”
Action against opposition leaders if COVID-19 cases surge
Addressing a press conference on Saturday, KP Health Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra warned that the number of infections can triple-fold in the second wave. “COVID-19 cases are increasing. The positivity rate has crossed 12%. KP has recorded the highest single-day tallies in the past few days. ”
Jhagra said the government was not opposed to the opposition’s jalsa but keeping in view the spike in coronavirus case the public should decide whether the political gathering should take place or not. “Times are tough. There will come time for jalsa again.”
Special Assistant to KP CM on Information Kamran Bangash said the government was reviewing the security situation as well. He warned the opposition leaders and workers may be at health risk due to coronavirus if they go ahead with the November 22 public gathering in Peshawar.
Bangash said the opposition leaders were insistent on holding a rally in Peshawar because the city was PTI’s strong-hold. “This is unfair to the masses. Recently, Peshawar High Court (PHC) chief justice Waqar Seth passed away due to COVID-19,” he said. “If the cases rise, we will hold opposition responsible and take action against them.”
The statements from the government came after the Opposition decided it would push ahead with the Peshawar jalsa at Peshawar’s Dalazak Road, Ring Road Chowk despite the city administration denying permission for a gathering there on Friday.
The notification issued by the deputy commissioner’s office said the matter was considered by the district administration and capital city police under Section 14 of the KP Civil Administration Act 2020. The government officials did a field assessment and held a meeting with the jalsa organisers.
But, citing a November 2 notification issued by the KP government banning large public gatherings owing to the rising coronavirus positivity rate in the community, the deputy commissioner denied permission to hold the jalsa “after considering all aspects, and to safeguard human lives due to potential spread of COVID-19.”
However, the PDM is not ready to back down. Its media coordinator, Abdul Jalil Jan, said the PDM rally will be held as planned on November 22.
He added that they will not tolerate any sort of ban from the Peshawar district administration. Jan said holding the rally is their fundamental right under the Constitution and law.
Speaking to Geo News, PML-N provincial chief Amir Muqam said the opposition parties did not need permission to hold the rally. “We will strictly follow COVID-19 SOPs. If Imran Khan really cared about the country, we would not be out on the streets.”
PPP general-secretary Faisal Karim hoped the KP police will provide security. “The jalsa will not be cancelled,” he asserted. “We are not afraid – our leaders have sacrificed their lives. Those who cannot even run a [Peshawar] BRT are threatening us.”