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Thousands Of Pakistanis Defy Coronavirus Restrictions To Join Anti-Government Rally


Supporters of the Pakistan Democratic Movement, an alliance of opposition parties, attend an anti-government rally in Multan, Pakistan on November 30.

Thousands of people have rallied in the central Pakistani city of Multan calling on Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign, despite a government ban and the arrest of dozens of activists.

The November 30 rally marked the fifth such gathering organized by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), a recently formed alliance of 11 opposition parties.

Opposition supporters defied all restrictions for the rally, which included the blocking of Multan’s entry points with shipping containers and the suspension of mobile phone service in the city.

Ahead of the gathering, police banned the gathering on orders from the government and carried out the arrests, defending the move as necessary to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Police said they had arrested more than 370 people, but opposition groups put the number at over 1,800.

Pakistani opposition leaders allege that Khan was brought to power by the army through a rigged vote in July 2018 and accuse the military establishment of interference in civilian affairs. Both the government and the military deny the allegations.

"[The] government's days are numbered and no one can save them," Maryam Nawaz, daughter of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, said while addressing the demonstration. Sharif lives in exile in London despite being sought on corruption charges by a Pakistani court.

Punjab government's spokesperson Firdous Ashiq Awan accused the opposition of “putting life of thousands of people in danger for their personal gains."

More than 2,800 new coronavirus cases and 40 related deaths had been reported in Pakistan during the last 24 hours, according to official data.

The authorities have so far reported 398,024 infections, with 8,025 related deaths.

Last week, the government announced the closure of all educational institutions for more than a month as a new wave of coronavirus sweeps the country and places further burdens on its healthcare system.

With reporting by dpa and AP
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