A dangerous showdown: Shafaqna special

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Pakistan’s media is upbeat with the news of PDM rally in Multan.JUI-F chief Maulana Fazal ur Rehman said that leaders of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) will go to the Opposition coalition’s rally in Punjab on November 30 despite the PTI government’s “threats of legal action. In a press conference alongside former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and PML-N’s Rana Sanullah, Fazl said all the leaders would reach the venue come what may and that the Multan rally would be held at all cost.

Earlier in the day, the PDM leadership held a consultative meeting at a JUI-F seminary to gauge the situation after the government of Punjab initiated a crackdown against  party workers who had entered Multan’s Qila Kohna Qasim Bagh Stadium by breaking down the gates and removing containers blocking the route to the stadium.

The government has said it will not allow the latest PDM rally scheduled for November 30 in Multan to go ahead because of the rising cases of coronavirus in the country. Over 3000 cases were recorded on Thursday, and the number appears to be going steadily upwards with at least three senior members of the PPP, including Bilawal Bhutto Zardari himself, affected by the virus. Despite the rising cases, and what seems to be a general disregard for the potential fatal implications of contracting the virus, the opposition insists the government’s concern is simply a ploy to stop anti-government rallies from proceeding.

The ongoing confrontation between the government and the PDM is helping in the pandemic’s spread. The opposition parties were practically forced to take recourse to street agitation on account of the unrelenting vengefulness on the part of the Prime Minister. Fresh cases continue to be opened against opposition leaders by NAB after failing to penalize them in the old ones.

A large team of hired government spokesmen has continued a barrage of propaganda against the PDM leadership, adding insult to injury. The government wants to put an end to the opposition’s protests on terms that are humiliating for its leaders. It is thus using the pandemic to force the opposition to surrender, while it continues to pile fresh cases against its leaders amidst grave provocations.

The PDM has a right to rally, yes, but it also has a duty to protect the people it says it is rallying for. Perhaps, it would be sensible on their part to simply delay the opposition campaign for a month or so to determine what is happening as far as the coronavirus outbreak is concerned. This should do the movement no harm and yet take away from the government the argument that it is stopping the rallies on the basis of avoiding a spread of the disease that has ravaged the world.

There is a need for a truce between the opposition and the government. This requires an end to the filing of fresh cases, a signal to the pliant NAB to allow bail to those under investigation followed by invitation to the PDM for talks by the PM himself. Trying to subdue the opposition through threats like banning the protests did not help in the past and is not likely to help now.

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