Rallies remain banned, but won’t block: Organisers to face law, says Shibli

ISLAMABAD: Referring to the countrywide rallies of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz on Tuesday said the government would lodge first information reports (FIRs) against the organisers of public meetings and leaders of political parties for violating the Coronavirus related standard operating procedures (SOPs) and guidelines.

“When something illegal is done, the case should be filed. The opposition is acting illegally by holding public meetings so that is why they should be held accountable,” the minister, flanked by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr Faisal Sultan, told a press briefing held here after the Federal Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The cases should be filed against the people who were violating the law, he added.

Shibli said the public gatherings amid the second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic not only posed grave threat to the lives of people but also were a sheer violation of the court orders that imposed ban on such activities.

It also violated the government’s instructions and standard operating procedures (SOPs) formulated in light of the National Command and Operation Center’s (NCOC) recommendations, he added.

According to the latest figures, he said 67 people died because of the Coronavirus on Tuesday.

The opposition parties with their political gatherings were damaging the economy, he said, adding the United States with a population of 320 million could not even control the Coronavirus but Pakistan did well by successfully tackling the virus, keeping the economy moving and protecting the livelihoods of people.

Despite the over-burdened healthcare system in the country, the government had tackled the first wave of virus in a very effective manner by improving the public sector hospitals’ infrastructure and successfully implementing the SOPs, he added.

The minister appealed to the people to stay away from the opposition’s gatherings and follow the guidelines of NCOC, which were based on the experts’ recommendations and scientific studies.

He maintained that the government would not stop the public from participating in the upcoming political gathering of PDM in Lahore.

However, action would be taken against those who instigated the people to violate the health guidelines.

He remarked that the opposition’s activities were not favourable to the businesses and national progress at the time when economy was on an upward trajectory, industry being revived and the people were getting job opportunities.

Shibli said the economy could not be paralysed due to the opposition parties’ ‘blackmailing’ tactics.

He said it was very unfortunate to note that the PDM leadership held a public meeting in Multan despite the reservations expressed by the government and state institutions.

There was be no need to discuss its success or failure, he added.

The minister said he would again like to extend his gratitude to the people of Multan for staying away from the PDM rally.

The show was a ‘complete failure’ as out of 2.5 million populations, only 10 to 15 thousands, that too included 3,000 workers from Sindh, attended the gathering.

It reinforced the fact that Multan’s dwellers had rejected the opposition totally, he added.

He said the hooliganism at Multan rally was in fact demonstration of the PDM leaders’ desire for getting wide coverage in the media.

Their venomous speeches, especially of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader, were just to protect the national wealth looted by them, along with their vested interests and there was nothing for the common people, he added.

He said the government was not afraid of their public gatherings as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf was the biggest crowd puller political party of the country.

Shibli said the Coronavirus related restrictions had nothing to do with democracy.

Almost the entire world had been grappling with the pandemic and even many countries had imposed curfew or complete lockdown.

He said the PDM leaders claimed themselves to be public representatives but they negated the very essence of democracy by endangering the people’s lives through public gatherings.

He recalled that once Maryam Nawaz said that she did not have any property in London or even in Pakistan.

He added that the host of a recent BBC programme said Nawaz Sharif was a criminal.

They could never speak truth and their narrative was totally based on lies, the minister remarked.

The minister said the government had taken the initiative to launch two major construction projects of the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project in Lahore and the Bundle Island in Karachi.

The prime minister was determined to execute the projects despite all the hurdles as their construction would generate millions of jobs, besides controlling illegal activities and protecting the people from flooding, he added.

Shibli said the projects would attract foreign direct investment worth billions of rupees, and provide modern living facilities and clean environment to the citizens.

The foreign construction companies were participating in the projects.

He said the Sindh government had first issued a no-objection certificate for the Bundle Island and then backtracked; however, there was now again progress on the issue.

There was no need to acquire land on the island, he said, adding the government would protect the marine life, mangroves and fisheries.

A documentary would be made to highlight the efforts of the government to protect the marine life and environment.

Dr Faisal Sultan said the government had decided to acquire the vaccine for the Coronavirus.

A cabinet committee would review the efficacy of vaccine and set modalities for administering it to the people.

According to the criteria, he said, the frontline health workers and elderly citizens would be given priority for administering the vaccine.

The committee would look into different types of vaccines; examine their side effects and cold chain requirements.

Shibli said $150 million (Rs23.93 billion) had been approved for acquiring and administering the Coronavirus vaccines.

He clarified that the prices of only 94 essential medicines were increased to keep their supply stable.

This article originally appeared on The News International