PESHAWAR: Protests and threats by religious gro­ups and clerics forced the org­anisers to cancel the first-ever “Cycle Rally of Fem­ales and Transgender” sche­duled for Saturday (today) in the provincial capital.

The event was to be join­tly organised by two non-governmental organisations — Zamung Jandoon (our life) and Pak Development Mission — and the Peshawar district administration had on Jan 11 given them permission to hold the rally at Hayatabad Township.

Majlis Ulema-i-Hayata­bad (MUH), a body of clerics and prayer leaders of all the mosques in the area, and other religious groups, including Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) and Jamaat-i-Islami, had termed the event promotion of “vulgarity and obscenity” in society and announced that they would hold a protest demonstration near the venue of the event to force the administration to place a ban on it.

The religious groups also held demonstrations near the Peshawar Press Club and Hayatabad Township on Friday, asking the government not to permit the cycle rally. However, after the event was called off, the MUH announced cancellation of its Saturday’s demonstration.

“We had planned the event only to show the progressive and peaceful face of Pashtuns in particular and citizens of Pakistan in general to the world,” said Wafa Wazir, the chief executive of Zamung Jandoon. She told Dawn that there was no other intention behind the move and around 30 individuals had approached them to participate in the event.

“Being a Pashtun myself, belonging to Waziristan, I am fully aware of Pashtun culture and the event got nothing offensive to our culture,” she said, adding that they had decided to cancel the event for the time being and would assess the situation and decide later whether to give a new date for the event or not.

In reply to a question, Ms Wazir said her NGO was not a registered body and had been functional for over three years. She said they had sent invitations to government functionaries and lawmakers and it was not clear how many of them would have turned up had the event taken place as per schedule.

She said her organisation mostly comprised students and they would continue to hold events aimed at empowering women and supporting disadvantaged groups in society in a peaceful manner.

While the organisers had announced that the cycle rally would be held at the Hayatabad Sports Complex and the director general sports would inaugurate it, the directorate had expressed its ignorance about the event.

Soon after the controversy erupted, the Sports Complex administrator distanced himself from the event. In a notice issued on Friday, the administrator claimed that his office was unaware about the event. “Neither this office is organising the said event nor has the Hayatabad Sports Complex been allowed to any NGO, etc. The information circulated regarding organising the said event by the Directorate General of Sports is fake,” the notice stated.

Earlier in the day, the protesting clerics held a meeting with Hayatabad Assistant Superintendent of Police Najmul Hassan and apprised him of their reservations.

JUI-F spokesman Abdul Jalil Jan told Dawn that the ASP had endorsed their views and assured them that the cycle rally would not be held.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2019