PESHAWAR: The Azadi March of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) with support of opposition parties is entirely a male-show clearly depicting women exclusion from politics as one of the main agenda of the party that has come to Islamabad to ouster the prime minister from his office.

“There are thousands of people in this march and we might be out in the open for days so we could not ensure the honour and protection of the women that’s why we did not allow any woman to take part in Azadi March,” said JUI-F provincial spokesperson Jalil Jan.

The day the marchers moved, very few women of other opposition parties like ANP drove with their party members to Islamabad but on ground only men were visible.

While some known faces of electronic media interviewed on container JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman, male colleagues discouraged women reporters even from going to the Azadi March ground warning them of harassment.

UoP teacher says women’s participation important for political movement

It is entirely a male show. JUI-F had been criticising the PTI sit-in for open participation of women and kept its march exclusive to men to avoid the same criticism, said a senior journalist covering the march.

While Maulana Fazlur Rehman has termed the march, he has started with the support of other opposition parties, as ‘national movement’, he has kept almost half of the population of the country out of this political movement.

This is not for the first time that women have been kept away from participation or consultation on a freedom march or political activity by the religio-political party.

Stopping women from exercising their right to vote is a violation that almost all political parties have committed in one election or another. Women in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been deprived of such right to take part in a public activity be it an all-women cycle-race, casting vote or contesting election.

JUI-F that is heading the march had ruled Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as part of the Mutahidda Majlis-i-Amal government that floated morality laws like Hasba Bill and objected recently to domestic violence bill in the provincial assembly.

The political parties were also like-minded in opposing the child marriage restraint bill in the provincial assembly that calls for raising the age limit of a girl child to 18 years. Smearing of women’s faces on billboards was a common scene during MMA rule in KP.

Noreen Naseer, a teacher of political science at University of Peshawar, says if almost half of the population of the country is not freely allowed to be part of a movement or march, she won’t call it Azadi March.

“I don’t call it Azadi March if women can’t participate in it freely. It is a political party that uses religion card. If it believes in democratic system then it should accept that a man and woman have equal rights as voters in democracy,” she said.

Ms Naseer said that those political parties only cared for women votes and brought them on their priority-list on reserved seats in national and provincial assemblies but gave a lame excuse that it could not protect women in such march so they did not allow them to participate in Azadi March.

“A woman is important for a political movement,” she stressed. She said that those political parties should either reject democratic structures or fully follow democratic systems and values.

Published in Dawn, November 4th, 2019