LHC to hear arguments on petition against holding of Aurat March

Updated February 24, 2020

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Women participating in the Aurat March held in 2019 in Lahore. — Umar Riaz/File
Women participating in the Aurat March held in 2019 in Lahore. — Umar Riaz/File

The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday accepted for hearing a petition to stop the Aurat March 2020, scheduled to be held on March 8, and summoned Additional Director Cybercrime Wing of the Federal Investigation Agency and Deputy Inspector General Operations on February 27.

The petition, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, filed by Judicial Activism Council Chairman Azhar Siddique said that "there are various anti-state parties present who are funding this Aurat March with the sole purpose of spreading anarchy amongst the masses".

The petition also termed the march "against the very norms of Islam" and that its hidden agenda is to spread "anarchy, vulgarity and hatred".

"During last year's Aurat March, women were holding placards that had objectionable messages," said Siddique.

The petition mentions that Siddique had previously submitted an application to the Capital City Police Office (CCPO) Lahore to register a first information report against the "women holding objectionable placards at the march" but police did not take any action.

He also submitted another application to enforce the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 and Citizen Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020 to "stop the promotion of anti-state activities such as Aurat March on social media" and another application for the promulgation of the Punjab Red Zone (Establishment and Security) Act, 2018 throughout not only Lahore but also the rest of Punjab but no action has been taken yet.

The petition requested the court to effectively promulgate the Acts mentioned in the petition to "silence the advertisement of Aurat March on social media and to regulate protests such as the Aurat March".

The LHC directed the federal government lawyer to ask for instructions from the Ministry of Interior and inform the court.

On March 8 of last year, women across Pakistan came together to participate in the Aurat March 2019.

Read more: Should feminists claim Aurat March's 'vulgar posters'? Yes, absolutely

However, the backlash against the march and its organisers was swift. The backlash began with a trickle of comments on Twitter and Facebook, then escalated as people began faking and doctoring images of posters to circulate them on social media and stir up further controversy.