Faisalabad ‘Aurat March’ cancelled ‘under pressure from administration’

Published August 2, 2021
In this file photo, activists of the Aurat March hold placards during a rally to mark International Women's Day in Islamabad on March 8, 2020. — AFP/File
In this file photo, activists of the Aurat March hold placards during a rally to mark International Women's Day in Islamabad on March 8, 2020. — AFP/File

LAHORE: The ‘Aurat March’ Faisalabad was cancelled on Sunday allegedly under pressure from the city administration, which did not give the organisers the no objection certificate (NOC).

The students, civil society and women had planned to organise the Aurat March to raise a voice against “ongoing femicide and protest the brutal murders of women all over the country in the name of ‘isolated incidents’ and to make collective social change in the way women are treated”.

The charter of demands of the Aurat March Faisalabad, shared on its official twitter handle, spelled out the objectives of the march, saying the objectives included an end to all gender-based violence, especially violence against women, and other gender minorities by patriarchal institutions and forces. The 20 demands and objectives included protection of rights of women and transpersons, establishment of gender-based violence reporting cells, led by women or trans policewomen, a toll-free hotline for reporting domestic violence cases, special centres for abuse victims, implementation of laws against women abuse and child marriages and steps to end honour-killing incidents.

The organisers, mainly students and their teachers, had launched an online campaign in support of the march on social media days back and also applied to the district administration to issue them a no objection certificate (NOC) to hold the march on Sunday.

The Faisalabad assistant commissioner concerned allegedly did not give them permission for holding the march. The organisers had to cancel the event and they launched an online campaign against cancellation of the march on social media.

The official Twitter account of Aurat March Faisalabad tweeted: “Aurat march has been postponed due to security concerns. New update will be posted shortly” (sic).

The Facebook page of the Aurat March Faisalabad posted: “It’s utterly sad that the system reacted against a peaceful and democratic March that was organized by students of the city. The administration seemed horrified by the popularity and solidarity by the peoples of the city and denied providing any sort of space and protection for a peaceful demonstration, rather, resorted to harassment and threat to the organizers.

But this isn’t the end. We extend our appreciation and thank you all for showing your support. Our voices for the rights of women wouldn’t end here, this is just a drop and we would progress in our fight against patriarchy that has penetrated everywhere. The event is postponed for now, we apologise for it but we would thank you all for your support and appreciation” (sic).

Human rights and political activist Ammar Ali Jan condemned the act of the administration for, what he termed, hurling threats of dire consequences to the organisers of the Aurat March.

He tweeted, “Today’s Aurat March in Faisalabad has been cancelled. Assistant Commissioner Faisalabad threatened to arrest the organizers and called young female students to intimidate them. Its a blatant example of how the state suppresses women’s movements”.

While talking to Dawn, he said one of the organisers of the Aurat March called on Faisalabad AC to seek permission for the march but he turned down their request. He alleged that the AC also threatened the organisers with arrests of the participants of the march and cases against them.

Mr Jan alleged that a day before, members of a banned outfit Sipaha-i-Sahaba, had held a press conference to issue threats against the organisers of the Aurat March but no action was taken against them. He said the state was not allowing the people its basic right to protest against any brutality.

Teacher and rights activist Nida Kirmani tweeted, “Just heard that @FaisalabadMarch’s event was cancelled today. #shameonAcFSD for cancelling the NOC for this important event. More power to the students for organising this. We are with you 100%!

One of the organisers of the Aurat March, Moeez Abid also protested against the administration for not allowing to conduct the march for women right.

In a series of tweets, he said “Let me tell you what happens, Aurat March was planned since a week, We communicated to every responsible branch and authority over the NOC and had all what it takes for us to execute our ‘Right to Protest’ Given to us by Article 16 of ‘Constitution of Pakistan’. (sic)”

He further tweeted “Inside last 24 hrs, Some Sectarian Organisations had a press conference, Which was truly against how these Marches specifically ‘Aurat March’ is causing harm since Women rights are granted in ‘Pakistan’, Assistant Commissioner in the long negotiation of 2 hours kept on arguing on how Noor (Mukadam) should be blamed too, How women rights are already fulfilled and gave reason to us for not fulfilling the legitimate NOC requirement, Keep on giving made-up excuses on Muharram when it’s not even started so now we have decided to start a campaign against AC Commissioner since they are just one call away from an extremist mullah to take away our rights so Kindly retweet and Please spread the Hashtag #ShameOnACFsd so we can have this march as soon as possible. (sic)”

This correspondent contacted the AC concerned through repeated calls and messages to get his version but he did not reply.

Published in Dawn, August 2nd, 2021

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