Pakistan police Multan
Pakistani police officers stand guard next to shipping containers blocking the path to a public park where the supporters of Pakistan Democratic Movement, an alliance of opposition parties, held a rally in Multan, Pakistan, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. Image Credit: AP

Islamabad: The Pakistan government has warned of stern action against opposition leaders for defying coronavirus guidelines and holding public rallies despite the ban put in place due to the second wave of coronavirus.

Information Minister Shibli Faraz has said the government would lodge first information reports (FIRs) against the organisers of public meetings and leaders of political parties, particularly Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), for violating coronavirus rules.

“The opposition is acting illegally by holding public meetings which is why they should be held accountable,” the minister said in a post-cabinet meeting press conference. He added that the public gatherings amid the second wave of coronavirus pandemic “not only posed grave threat to the lives of people, but were also a violation of the court orders that imposed ban on such activities.”

Referring to the upcoming rally of PDM - the 11-party opposition alliance - on December 13 in Lahore, the minister said that the government would not stop the people from participating in the PDM’s political gathering in Lahore. However, “action would be taken against those who instigate the people to violate the health guidelines.”

Pakistan banned public rallies due to COVID-19 spike

Pakistan government banned public political rallies in mid-November after the country continued to see an upward trend, reporting highest daily coronavirus infections since July. Prime Minister Imran Khan announced the ban, fearing hospitals will be overwhelmed if people do not act responsibly and continue to ignore coronavirus guidelines.

PDM rally defies government ban, holds rally in Multan

The opposition alliance, PDM, defied the ban on public gatherings and held its fifth power show on Monday in Multan. PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-(F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, and PPP’s Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, along with other PDM leaders attended the rally. Aseefa, daughter of late premier Benazir Bhutto, joined the rally on behalf of her brother and party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is currently in isolation after contracting coronavirus last week. Bilawal tested positive soon after returning to Karachi after a month-long election campaign in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Increased political activities in Pakistan, opposition rallies in different cities, and the lax attitude of the people, have resulted in a sharp spike in coronavirus cases.

Meanwhile, the opposition alliance has said that their next meeting would be held on December 8 in Islamabad to devise the future strategy and finalise the decision to hold anti-government march in Islamabad in January 2021.