Wednesday Mar 17, 2021
KARACHI: PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Wednesday expressed regret over the "misuse of blasphemy laws" to target the Aurat March organisers following the rally earlier this month.
Bilawal Bhutto's comments came during a meeting with organisers of the Aurat March's Karachi chapter following a flurry of hate, threats of violence, and intimidation against women, the transgender community, and non-binary folks protesting against oppression on International Women's Day.
Earlier, images and videos published on social media by unidentified individuals shortly after Aurat March 2021 — Women's March — was held in various cities across Pakistan caused a controversy because it was, according to the organisers, edited to include subtitles that maliciously misinterpreted different words in their chants that have resonated year after year.
In his meeting with the rally organisers, the PPP boss said women's "powerful voices" during the Aurat March 2021 "challenged those who deny their abilities".
"The misuse of blasphemy laws by certain elements to target women marchers is regrettable," he said following a briefing on Aurat March's security concerns and other issues in the context of false propaganda and doctored videos.
Noting that women's role is important in all walks of life, Bilawal Bhutto said he was "happy" that organisers of the Aurat March 2021 "highlighted the frustrations and problems of Pakistani women".
Representatives of the transgender community and non-binary folks were also present in the meeting and apprised the PPP chair of the problems they face both on a daily basis and in the aftermath of the rally.
"Aurat March organisers thanked Bilawal and the PPP for their continued support for women's rights," the party said on Twitter, adding that he listened to their demands and assured them of the Sindh government's continued support for their cause.
A young voice among Pakistan's aged lawmakers, the 32-year-old politician also mentioned the courageous role of his mother, the late Benazir Bhutto, when the Aurat March organisers spoke of the threats they were constantly receiving.
Earlier, various doctored videos and images — part of what Pakistani activists termed was misinformation — had generated anger on social media and led to rallies, especially in federal capital Islamabad, demanding legal action against the Aurat March organisers.
To support their statement, Aurat March organisers had shared the original video clip from the rally wherein the correct words have been used and the correct subtitles provided.
"Some words, such as "mullah" and "Orya", a reference to a columnist, were doctored and twisted to other words that changed the content drastically, the organisers had added."
So intense and relentless was the misinformation campaign that Aurat March organisers had to share a reminder that the "doctored videos are still available online and no action has been taken".
Seasoned political analyst and host of a Geo News talk show, Shahzeb Khanzada, had covered in detail why the Aurat March was crucial for Pakistan and presented facts in light of the false propaganda against the Women's Day rally.