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Women's bicycle rally in Peshawar cancelled after protest threat by religious parties

Updated January 18, 2019

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Women ride bicycles while taking part in Girls on Bike rally in Islamabad. ─ Reuters/File
Women ride bicycles while taking part in Girls on Bike rally in Islamabad. ─ Reuters/File

The first women's bicycle rally scheduled to take place in Peshawar on January 19 was cancelled after religious parties on Friday threatened to protest against the event, officials said.

Zama Jawandoon, an organisation working for women's rights, had organised the 'peace rally' that was scheduled to begin from Peshawar's Hayatabad neighbourhood on Saturday.

According to the event's organiser, Wafa Wazir, at least 35 women were slated to participate in the rally and they had also invited people from the transgender community.

But the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam – Fazl (JUI-F), Jamaat-i-Islami, and other religious parties on Friday announced they would stage a protest against the rally at the Bagh-e-Naran in Hayatabad.

"The women's bicycle rally is spreading obscenity," JUI-F's Maulana Rafiullah Qasmi was quoted as saying at a meeting held earlier today.

Examine: Who's afraid of women?

He announced that they would contact the relevant departments to have the event cancelled and if that is not done, a demonstration will be held against the rally at 9am tomorrow.

The threat of the protest led the organisers to cancel the rally a day before it was scheduled to take place.

Speaking to DawnNewsTV, Wafa Wazir, the lead organiser, said they had approached the Peshawar district administration before announcing the rally and were subsequently issued a no-objection certificate (NOC) to hold the event.

But she said they had decided to postpone the event after the protest call by religious groups because they did not want the rally to take place in a state of any unrest.

When contacted, police said the organisers of the event had not approached them to obtain an NOC or seek security.

"After receiving information about the [planned] protest against the race, police contacted the organisers and they revealed that the rally had been postponed," SP Cantt Wasim Riaz said.

He said it was the responsibility of police to provide security to any events in the city, adding that organisers must first obtain police clearance.

According to SP Riaz, police had not received any directions from the district administration or any other department for the provision of security to the women's bicycle rally.

Meanwhile, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa directorate general of sports issued a statement to distance itself from the scheduled rally, even though it practically had nothing to do with the event.

"It has come to the notice of the [sports directorate] that some people are agitating protest regarding the organising of [a] female cycle race," the notice read. "It is clarified that this office is unaware regarding the organising of the said event."

It said the directorate had neither organised the event nor was the Hayatabad Sports Complex being provided to any NGO to hold the same.