First rally of Pakistan oppn parties against Imran Khan govt today to kick off protest movement

All is set for Pakistan’s opposition coalition to hold their first public meeting on Friday evening to kick off a series of agitations aimed at forcing out the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the chief of the Jamiat-Ulema Islam (F), who is also heading the 11-party Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), will lead a rally from Lahore to Gujranwala ahead of the public meeting, which will be attended by leaders of almost all opposition political parties.

PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and PML-N leaders Maryam Nawaz and Shehbaz Sharif will also be attending the meeting. In a bid to pressurise the opposition, the government through its anti corruption watchdog the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Thursday issued arrest warrants for former president Asif Ali Zardari in a corruption case. Zardari is currently in hospital in Karachi. Party leader Bilawal Bhutto commented that these were “common tactics used to pressurise the opposition.”

For its part, the government has threatened to shut down parts of the country, citing the rise in coronavirus cases. Minister for planning Asad Umar said on Thursday there are “unmistakable signs of the rise of corona” in the country and the government may have to take “restrictive actions” to curb the spread, which will have “negative effects” on the livelihoods of people.

Umar said in a number of tweets that the national positivity of Covid-19 cases was 2.37% on Wednesday, the highest in more than 50 days. The minister, who also oversees Pakistan’s response to the pandemic, said 11 virus deaths on average have been reported during the first four days of this week, the highest since August 10.

Despite the onset of winter, analysts say that the political temperature had started to rise in Pakistan. One expert said if the opposition parties managed to hold successive rallies and meetings in Pakistan in the coming week and are able to pull large crowds, “the Imran Khan government is in real danger.”

Opposition leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif led the charge against Prime Minister Imran Khan in September, when he told an All Parties Conference that he had nothing to do with Khan, who was a selected prime minister and more to ask those who selected him, a hint at the country’s powerful military leadership.

Describing it as a “state above the state”, Sharif had accused the Army of interfering in the politics of Pakistan and sabotaging democracy and democratic institutions.

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