Police officials involved in baton-charging Islamabad Aurat March have been suspended: Sanaullah

Published March 8, 2023
This image shows Islamabad police officials baton-charging Aurat March participants on Wednesday. — DawnNewsTV
This image shows Islamabad police officials baton-charging Aurat March participants on Wednesday. — DawnNewsTV

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said on Wednesday that police personnel involved in baton-charging the participants of Aurat March — a public demonstration held annually in various cities to mark International Women’s Day — in Islamabad had been suspended.

In a tweet, the minister said “other persons responsible for misbehaviour” were also being identified and proper action would also be taken against them.

In an earlier tweet, the interior minister had vowed that “strict legal action” would be pursued against those responsible for the “mistreatment” of citizens participating in the march

Sanaullah said he had taken strict notice of the behaviour meted out to the participants of the march, adding that the Islamabad police chief had been summoned regarding the matter.

One of the march’s organisers, Punjrush, explained what had happened during the rally, saying that transgender persons were performing when police charged at the protesters, causing some of them to get “crushed”.

“Then they started pushing us so we started to push back […] and then they started fighting and we started fighting and it just got confusing,” she said.

‘What’s wrong with us?’

Separately, Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman also condemned the Islamabad police’s action against citizens participating in the march.

“The Islamabad police had no business baton-charging a small peaceful procession,” she tweeted after a video of a police official pushing a female participant back emerged online.

“It is the women holding laathis that need to be pushed back, not progressive women. Sad to see this happening. I will seek an inquiry,” she said.

In another tweet, she strongly condemned the violence, adding that she had sought an inquiry on the incident. “There is no excuse for this. That too on International Women’s Day. This is not what we fought for and will not tolerate it,” she said.

The minister added that the incident had been brought to the attention of the interior minister.

“One day, just one day of the year our women, our courageous, talented but oppressed women, want to march and we find ways to disrupt it. What’s wrong with us?” asked PML-N’s Miftah Ismail.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) also condemned the use of force by the Islamabad police. It said it was also concerned about reports that religious organisations were trying to hinder women from taking part in the march.

“Women have as much right to peaceful assembly as any citizen. The police are supposed to provide security to the marchers, not to resort to violence against peaceful demonstrators,” the commission said.

Islamabad police issue apology, say action will be taken against those responsible

Meanwhile, Islamabad police said Inspector General Islamabad Dr Akbar Nasir Khan had taken notice of the incident and sought a report from the DIG operations.

“Islamabad police apologises for this incident,” the force’s official Twitter handle said, adding that the Islamabad IG had asked the IDG Operations to identify those responsible and take action against them.

“The Islamabad police stands with the participants of the march for the struggle and protection of women’s rights,” the statement said.

It added that the Islamabad IG had also directed the officials concerned to ensure the security of Aurat March and the Tahaffuz Haqooq Niswan rally.

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