Over 100 people, including internet service providers, sound system organisers and residents holding corner meetings, have been named in at least seven FIRs [First Information Reports] at different police stations across Gujranwala for violating coronavirus guidelines ahead of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Maryam Nawaz’s jalsa.
The daughter of former prime minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif is due to hold a public gathering in the city on October 16 as part of the joint opposition’s anti-government campaign. She is expected to be joined by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari as well in what is expected to be a mammoth power show by opposition parties.
While PM Imran Khan has reportedly given permission to the opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) for holding its protest rallies that are expected to feature fiery speeches against the government and security establishment as it puts forward 26 demands, including the resignation of the premier, sources claim that authorities concerned are springing into action in this regard.
“After Federal Minister Sheikh Rasheed’s warning that the next few months could be critical in terms of internal security and any prominent personal could suffer an attempt on his or her life, coronavirus is being used as a reason to bar the opposition from protesting against the government,” they alleged.
However, according to the police, the people named in the aforementioned FIRs had not been following coronavirus SOPs, especially social distancing rules.
“Residents have to submit a request for an NOC [no-objection certificate] before holding gatherings,” a police officer said, adding that Gujranwala’s chief police officer had instructed the police to ensure strict implementation of COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) in the city.
“The government has been cracking down on restaurants and other public spaces across the country for violation of SOPs since the number of cases in Pakistan spiked again in September,” he said.
NEW COVID-19 RULES:
Earlier in the day, it was also reported that the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has said public gatherings should preferably be avoided and those that are held, their duration should not exceed for more than three hours.
Interestingly, the NCOC made it clear that the guidelines were not for wedding events or sports ones as separate SOPs had been issued for the former and for the latter, will be released soon.
The NCOC defined a public gathering as an event “where people are assembled on any given space; indoor or outdoor, for some purpose such as cultural events, religious gatherings, sports events, entertainment/cultural events, parties, political gatherings or other similar events”.
The following public gatherings will have to follow the newly issued guidelines:
• Entertainment/Cultural Gatherings
• Public gatherings of Unions/Associations or any such group
• Religious gatherings
• Political gatherings
• Family gatherings
• Civil society group gatherings
• Sports related gatherings (SOPs to be issued separately)
• Marriage (being a frequent & obligatory activity) has been excluded from the list and a separate list of SOPs comprising strict restrictions has already been issued for it
A day earlier, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) had warned that a second coronavirus wave could hit the country this winter.
The PMC warned authorities and the general public about the foreseeable second spike of coronavirus, saying that it is likely to start from educational institutions as it happened in the United States (US), India and Iran.