Prime Minister Imran Khan and his cabinet members on Saturday lambasted the opposition alliance, Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), for moving ahead with tomorrow’s rally in Peshawar despite the threat of Covid-19. “The same PDM members who had wanted a strict lockdown and criticized me earlier [are] now playing reckless politics with people’s safety,” said the premier.

“They are even defying court orders and holding a jalsa when cases are rising dramatically,” he said. A day earlier, 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.

A letter issued by the DC’s office had noted that the coronavirus positivity rate in Peshawar district had exceeded 13 percent, adding that a public gathering was “likely to further increase the spread of the life-threatening virus”. The letter went on to say that in order to “safeguard human lives [from the] potential spread of Covid-19”, the public gathering cannot be allowed to take place.

However, the opposition vowed to defy the ban, warning the district administration that the use of force to stop the protesting citizens could spark street battles. In a tweet posted on Saturday, Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said Peshawar’s Covid-19 positivity ratio was 13.39 percent a day earlier while there were 202 patients in critical care.

“The PML-N government in Azad Jammu and Kashmir has imposed a complete lockdown for two weeks. The PPP government in Sindh has imposed ‘smart lockdowns’ in four districts in Karachi. However, both parties are insisting on holding the Peshawar rally,” he said, adding that there was no better example of being “two-faced”.

“In 2013, the PTI won four out of four seats, and five out of five in 2018. God willing, the same will happen in the next election. Peshawar is Imran Khan’s city.” He added that the opposition would not achieve anything except for endangering the lives and the health of the people by moving forward with its plans. “Perhaps they want to exact revenge from the people of Peshawar,” he said.

Information Minister Shibli Faraz said the opposition was bent upon exhibiting irresponsibility. “Their insistence on holding tomorrow’s rally is a reflection of their undemocratic thinking and irresponsible attitude. There is no legal or moral justification for moving forward with the rally despite the orders issued by the government and the court,” he said.

He warned that a case would be registered against the opposition leaders and the organizers of the rally if Covid-19 cases rose in the province. Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry called the opposition’s attitude “dangerous”.

“Playing with the lives of the people is no joke. The Tehreek-i-Labbaik also didn’t leave any stone unturned in making Lahore a Covid time bomb. Now, the PML-N and the PPP will create chaos from Peshawar to Multan,” he said.

Minister for Maritime Affairs Syed Ali Haider Zaidi said it was the “height of hypocrisy and irresponsibility” that the PDM was insisting on holding rallies when “Covid-19 cases are rising throughout the country”.

“Earlier, these clowns wanted to shut down everything but now [they are] taking a Trumpian view by ignoring ground realities!” Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari said it was sad how the PDM was playing “dangerous politics with the people’s lives by insisting on continuing their rallies”.

“When the government was doing smart lockdowns, the same PDM leaders were attacking the government and demanding a complete lockdown. “But clearly holding jalsas in a desperate attempt to protect their corruption through pressuring for NRO is far more important than preventing exposure of people to Covid-19. They place little value on the lives of ordinary Pakistanis,” she said.

Sharing a picture of the invitation for the engagement of former president Asif Ali Zardari’s oldest daughter, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Imran khan on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill noted that the PPP had made Covid-19 tests mandatory for Bakhtawar’s nuptials scheduled for November 27.

“You consider your lives precious but why do you not care for the lives of the people when you call them to rallies?”