Tuesday Mar 10, 2020
ISLAMABAD: The Aurat March organisers on Tuesday called for an independent judicial probe into a "coordinated attack" on their rally over the weekend that left at least one person injured.
Days of mounting tensions boiled over on Sunday when a group of miscreants broke a flimsy barrier between the two rallies in the capital hurled stones, bricks, and sticks at a march marking International Women's Day.
"It was a coordinated attack from the patriarchal and right-wing forces on the women's movement," said Ismat Shahjahan, one of the organisers of the event.
"We demand an independent judicial inquiry," she added.
The capital's police registered a case against 12 identified and 300 to 400 unidentified people late Sunday — including organisers of the anti-feminist rally — for "provoking the religious sentiments" of their followers against the Women's Day marchers.
According to the FIR, the counter-protest to the Aurat March was held without obtaining a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the authorities.
The Aurat March organisers, however, have argued that police downplayed the severity of the attack and should have issued more serious charges against the suspected assailants.
The incident follows last year's second annual Aurat March, which sparked a backlash against participants — including rape, death, and bomb threats.
In the days leading up to this year's rally, at least two petitions were filed to the country's higher courts asking for authorities to ban marches across the country, while religious political parties vowed to stop the demonstrations.
In a society where women have been shot, stabbed, stoned, set alight, and strangled for damaging a family's "honour", marchers have been accused of promoting Western, liberal values, and disrespecting religious and cultural sensitivities.
Much of Pakistani society operates under a strict code of "honour", systemising the oppression of women in matters such as the right to choose whom to marry, reproductive rights, and even the right to an education.
According to estimates, at least 1,000 women fall victim to honour killings in Pakistan each year. Rights activists have long fought against the patriarchal notion of "honour".