In various cities across Pakistan, the 'Aurat March' was held today to mark International Women’s Day. The marches were attended by women, children, men, transgender people and others.
The first Aurat March was held in 2018 in Karachi. Last year, it was extended to more cities, including Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Larkana and Hyderabad.
This year the march was once again held in various cities nationwide:
- Lahore: Participants gathered at 11am at the Lahore Press Club
- Multan: 11am at the Multan Press Club
- Quetta: 11am at the Quetta Press Club
- Islamabad: Participants gathered outside the National Press Club at 3pm
- Karachi: Participants gathered at 3pm at Frere Hall
Participants of the Aurat March gathered outside the National Press Club at 3pm, where the 'Haya March — which was held by Jamia Hafsa students — also culminated. In order to avoid clashes, authorities had erected a tent between the two marches.
However, after the Jamia Hufsa students ended their march, the male participants took down the tent and started throwing stones, injuring at least one member of the Aurat March, Dawn reported. The situation was soon brought under control by police.
The incident was condemned by the organisers of Islamabad's Aurat March, who questioned the security measures taken by authorities for the event.
"Iss nizaam se chahtay hain Azadi! (we want freedom from this system!!)" the tweet said.
PPP Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar also condemned the incident and said: "To scare women from sticks, stones and bad language is cowardly behaviour."
Khokhar demanded that legal action be taken against the people responsible for pelting marchers with stones.
Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari also issued a condemnation, saying that while people have the right to disagree, "violence is unacceptable".
"Strongly condemn the stoning and violence against peaceful gathering of women, men and families in #AuratMarch2020. Our religion teaches tolerance and Sabr. It does not allow throwing stones and sticks at unarmed people one disagrees with. Can disagree with them but violence is unacceptable," she tweeted.
She also praised the capital police for "handling a difficult situation at the Press Club protest promptly and effectively".
Separately, female members of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) held a march outside the National Press Club.
The participants of the JI march reached China Chowk from the National Press Club where JI chief Sirajul Haq addressed the gathering.
During his address, Haq said that the Election Commission of Pakistan should not name any hopeful who as male doesn't give his sister her inheritance rights.
"In the future, I will not give a party ticket to any man who doesn't give his sister her rights," he said.
In Lahore, marchers gathered at the Lahore Press Club. Carrying placards, they played the drums, clapped and chanted slogans.
As the attendees gathered, they chanted slogans calling for the independence of women.
The march went through Egerton road till Aiwan-e-Iqbal, protected by two layers of security personnel, many of whom included policewomen.
Meanwhile, a resolution was submitted in the Punjab Assembly by PML-N MPA Kanwal Liaquat, demanding an end to gender discrimination. The resolution condemned underage marriages and demanded that women be granted legal, social and economic protection.
In Karachi, advocates of women's rights held the Aurat March at the Frere Hall garden. Pakistan Peoples Party-Shaheed Bhutto leader Ghinwa Bhutto also arrived at the venue to participate in the march.
Spokesperson for the Sindh government Barrister Murtaza Wahab also participated in the Aurat March with his family.
Walkthrough gates had been installed at the venue and contingents of police were deployed to maintain security.
A march was also held by members of the Home Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) from Arts Council to Karachi Press Club. Participants of the march, led by HBWWF general secretary Zahra Akbar Khan, demanded financial autonomy for women as well as protection against workplace harassment and discrimination.
A 'Haya March' was also held at Teen Talwar by the Pakistan Tahaffuz Movement.
In Sukkur, participants of Aurat March gathered at Lab-e-Mehran garden and walked to the press club. The marchers demanded equal rights for women, access to education, an end to forced conversions and a fund for the families of missing persons. The participants also condemned practices like karo kari.
They also highlighted the human rights abuse in occupied Kashmir.
At the press club, participants released white pigeons and recited poetry by Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai.
A rally was also held in Sukkur on Saturday night during which participants carried torches.
Delegations from various organisations from Karachi, Hyderabad, Khairpur, Shikarpur and other areas participated in the event.
In Multan, participants of the Aurat March gathered outside the city's press club.
An event was also arranged in Thar's Nangarparkar by Sindh Human Rights Department to mark Women's Day.
Meanwhile, in Badin supporters of the proscribed Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat shut down the town of Khoski and protested against the Aurat March. They insisted that the event had been arranged by "misguided women".
The Aurat March, as it has come to be known since its first iteration in 2018, was organised by Hum Aurtain — a feminist collective. It has a manifesto demanding basic rights for women in each field of life.
This year, Aurat March's manifesto revolves around khudmukhtari (independence) of women.
Women's Day messages
Various politicians have also shared messages for International Women's Day.
President Arif Alvi quoted Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah as saying: "Power of women is greater than the pen and sword."
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that observing International Women's Day is a "reiteration of our commitment to undertake every possible effort to ensure equal rights and opportunities to our women".
In a statement, the premier said: "In this effort, we are guided by the teachings of our religion, the Seerat of Holy Prophet (PBUH) and the core values that distinguish our society.
"It is indeed encouraging to see that our women are proving their mettle in every walk of life and achieving excellence in their respective fields at national and international level.
"I reaffirm my pledge on this day to take all measures that would help our women to lead a safe, secure and prosperous life," he said.
Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa paid tribute to the country's women for playing a "pivotal role in nation-building".
Gen Bajwa's message was tweeted by Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar.
“Our tribute to all women of Pakistan, who have played pivotal role in nation-building in all segments of our society. Our brave mothers, sisters, daughters especially our martyrs’ families and those serving in armed forces are pride of our nation."
In his message on the occasion, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif said that under former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's leadership, PML-N had always taken steps for the protection and promotion of women.
He added that if given the opportunity to be in the government again, they will take "historic steps" for women's education, health and economic betterment.
Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari said that on the occasion, women in Pakistan will be marching to "demand their rights in accordance with our religion Islam, as enshrined in our Constitution and in the commitments made by successive governments through ratification of international human rights conventions".
She said that the right to peaceful protest is a "democratic right and women cannot be denied it".
"Women must also respect that right for other women. Diversity and tolerance — respect for the 'other'. #AuratMarch," she tweeted.
Additional reporting by Nadir Guramani.