Aurat March organisers denied permission to hold rally in Lahore

Web Desk
Aurat March protesters hold placards and shout slogans as they gather to mark International Womens Day in Islamabad — Farooq Naeem/ AFP
Aurat March protesters hold placards and shout slogans as they gather to mark International Women's Day in Islamabad — Farooq Naeem/ AFP

  • Activists organise demonstrations to mark Women's Day.
  • Lahore admin's move slammed.
  • HRCP says it is regrettable that right to assembly is challenged.  

The district administration of Lahore has denied the organisers of Aurat March — a women's rights movement in the country — the permission to hold a public rally to mark International Women’s Day on March 8.

The local authorities were requested to grant permission for the event, however, the Lahore deputy commissioner (DC) turned down the requests citing the threat alerts from security agencies as the reason.

Reacting to the decision, the Aurat March organising committee vehemently condemned the DC in a series of tweets, saying that the NOC was denied due to Jamat-e-Islami's "Haya March".

"The DC herself acknowledges that the Jamaat has announced a program against the Aurat March, yet it is the March that is being denied its constitutional right, not the group inciting violence," it noted. 

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) also condemned the Lahore district administration’s move, terming it "regrettable", The News reported.

“It is regrettable that their right to peaceful assembly is routinely challenged by the district administration on the grounds that ‘controversial’ placards and ‘strong reservations’ from the public and religious organisations ostensibly create law-and-order risks This is a poor defence," a statement released by the HRCP read.

The commission said that Punjab's caretaker government must uphold the Aurat March’s right to the freedom of peaceful assembly and provide the marchers with full security.

On March 8, women around the world mark a day they call their own – International Women’s Day, highlighting achievements and dialoguing about issues still unresolved. 

The Women’s Day theme this year is #BreakTheBias, underscoring the idea that it is not enough to acknowledge the existence of bias. Action is necessary to achieve equality.

In Pakistan, feminists have been organising large public demonstrations for Women’s Day called Aurat [the Urdu word for woman] March, since 2018. Opposition to Aurat March has grown in proportion to its popularity and impact.

In a society where women have been shot, stabbed, stoned, set alight and strangled for damaging family "honour", critics accuse rights activists of promoting liberal Western values and disrespecting religious and cultural mores.

It is not the first time when the city's authorities have imposed such a restriction. Last year, the organisers in Lahore had been urged to cancel the rally over safety concerns. The authorities had also threatened to not provide security.

However, after a legal challenge, the Lahore High Court ruled the event could go ahead and authorities agreed to provide protection.