The interim Punjab government has claimed that it would not put any obstacles in the Aurat March event in Lahore. The caretaker set up has claimed to have “allayed” the reservations of the organisers of the event.
“The Punjab government will provide complete security to the participants of Aurat March,” Interim Information Minister Amir Mir said in a statement on Sunday.
His statement comes two days after the Lahore district administration refused permission to organise the event on March 8—International Women’s Day.
Marches have been held in major cities all over Pakistan since 2018 to bring attention to women’s rights.
Lahore city authorities cited the “controversial cards and banners” commonly displayed by participants in the march and security concerns, threat alerts, and strong reservation of general public and religious organisations, which were laid out in a notification to march organisers late Friday.
Counter-protests dubbed “Haya (modesty)” marches are commonly staged by Jamaat-e-Islami to call for the preservation of Islamic values.
Right bodies had expressed concerns over the refusal. They demanded of the district administration and the provincial government to ensure freedom of expression.
“The interim government believes in individual liberties,” it said and expressed hope that Aurat March would be held peacefully.
“The reservations of the organizers of the Aurat March have been allayed,” Interim Information Minister Amir Mir said.
‘Violation of our rights’
“It’s a violation of our rights. This raises questions about the state’s ability to manage the right to freedom of assembly for both groups,” Hiba Akbar, an organiser for Aurat March Lahore, told AFP while reacting to the Lahore district commissioner’s letter on Saturday.
Authorities have allowed this year’s Haya March to be held despite the ban on the Aurat March.
Organisers of the Aurat March in Pakistan have frequently had to resort to legal action to counter attempts to ban it.
The Aurat March rallies have courted controversy because of banners and placards waved by participants that raise subjects such as divorce, sexual harassment and menstruation.
Organisers and participants have been accused of promoting Western, liberal values and disrespecting religious and cultural sensitivities.
Rights group Amnesty International said the Lahore decision “amounts to an unlawful and unnecessary restriction of the right to assembly”.
Authorities in Islamabad, citing security concerns, have relegated the Aurat March to a city park where a woman was gang raped in February.
“We are a feminist movement, we will not be in parks but rather on the streets,” a statement by march organisers there said.
In 2020, groups of men turned up in vans and hurled stones at women participating in the Aurat March.
Women have long fought for basic rights in Pakistan, where activists say men commit “pervasive and intractable” violence against them.