Govt to support Aurat March with strings attached

Published March 7, 2020
As PPP comes out with all-out backing, PML-N asks organisers to take a culturally acceptable stance. — AFP/File
As PPP comes out with all-out backing, PML-N asks organisers to take a culturally acceptable stance. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The government on Friday announced its support for Aurat March on the occasion of International Women’s Day on Sunday and expressed the hope that the participants of the march would not harm honour and dignity of the country.

The opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) also backed the march programmes, but asked the organisers to take a stance which was culturally acceptable to society.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), however, announced complete support for the march with no strings attached. It accused both the Pakistan Tekreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and PML-N of being on the same page on the issue of women’s march.

Speaking at a ceremony on Friday, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said the government would give full support to the march on Sunday provided it “does not trample on the country’s honour”.

She said that strengthening women was the PTI government’s most important mission. She, however, wondered what kind of power did (women marchers) want by coming out on roads and raising slogans not permitted by “values of our society, religion and family”.

As PPP comes out with all-out backing, PML-N asks organisers to take a stance culturally acceptable to society

“We will have to trace who are those handful people who possess this mindset and why they are busy in misleading the entire nation, especially women,” she said.

The special assistant did not elaborate what she was meant by the “mindset” which, she claimed, was misleading the people.

Dr Awan said the Constitution provided full protection and rights to women and that it was the aim of the government to make women independent.

The women march last year caused some controversy over some of the placards held by activists of the march which were inscribed with slogans which opponents of the march claimed “violated Islamic principles” and were “disrespecting women”.

They said that placards and banners of the march “violated the country’s cultural values”.

Speaking at a press conference, PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that his party always supported the struggle for basic rights of women and always fought for freedom of expression in the country.

He said that a slogan which had become controversial in society was actually written in English, but when it was translated into Urdu, it gave a different meaning.

He advised the organisers of the march to adhere to “Islamic and cultural” norms of the country.

“The organisers must raise and write culturally acceptable slogans with utmost care,” the PML-N leader said.

PPP Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, who is also spokesman for PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, alleged that the opposition PML-N and the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf were on the same page on the issue of women march as the two parties had formed an undeclared “anti-women” alliance.

He said the PTI had come out openly against women and the “silence” of the PML-N on the women’s rights march showed the party’s “conservative thinking”.

“Chairman Bilawal is the only leader who has openly supported the women march and he has raised his voice for the rights of women in the country,” the PPP leader said, adding that the people of the country should strengthen hands of PPP chairman Bilawal for a progressive and enlightened Pakistan.

Mr Khokhar said that whenever issues of rights of women, labourers and poor growers came to the fore, all conservative forces formed an unholy alliance and united front against them.

“Imran Khan used to be called the good-looking Jamaat-i-Islami and now it is proved that the PTI is the modern form of Jamaat-i-Islami,” the PPP leader said.

He claimed that these people had been supporting theocracy which had no connection with Islam and they had a history of calling any rights movement un-Islamic.

The PPP senator said that his party would provide full protection to the women marchers in Sindh and demanded that the PTI government ensure protection to all women’s rights rallies across the country.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2020

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