–Petitioner’s lawyer says ‘it is not our intention to stop the march, we want that the immoral representation of it stops’
LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday, while observing that freedom of expression cannot be banned, sought replies from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and police on a petition against the holding of Aurat March 2020, which is scheduled to be held on March 8.
The civil miscellaneous petition filed by a citizen Munir Ahmed through Judicial Activism Council Chairman Azhar Siddique claiming that “there are various anti-state parties funding the march with the sole purpose of spreading anarchy in public” was being heard by LHC Chief Justice Mamoon Rashid Sheikh.
At the outset of the proceedings, FIA Director Abdul Rab and Lahore Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Operations Rai Babar Saeed appeared before the court.
The petition termed the march “against the norms of Islam”, adding that it had a “hidden agenda” to spread “vulgarity and hatred” as it was “being funded by anti-state elements”.
“During last year’s Aurat March, women were holding placards that had objectionable messages,” said Siddique.
Advocate Hina Jillani appeared on behalf of Aurat March organisers along with Digital Rights Foundation founder Nighat Dad. The two argued that the march was being held to highlight the significance of Women’s Day and submitted that the march would not create any hurdle for common masses as it was scheduled on a Sunday.
Regarding the arrangements made for the rally, Advocate Hina submitted that the march was observed peacefully last year and would be the same this year as well.
However, the petitioner’s counsel Muhammad Azhar Siddique submitted that the application had not been filed for stopping the march. While referring to posters displayed in the previous Aurat March, he requested the court to look into the matter.
“It is not our intention to stop the march, we want that the immoral representation of it stops,” he further said.
On this, counsel Hina Jillani questioned the petitioner’s link with the march and asked why he wanted a ban to be imposed on its publicity on social media.
“Freedom of expression cannot be banned,” Justice Sheikh pointed out during the hearing.
“We need to hear what public institutions have to say on this,” the LHC chief justice said while ordering for the FIA and police to submit their responses on the matter. “How will the police provide security?” the chief justice questioned.
The court noted that it was pertinent to know the stance of government institutions in this regard and sought a report about the provision of security for the rally.
Subsequently, the court adjourned further proceedings till March 3 and sought the petitioner’s reply on an application of the event’s organisers seeking to become a party in the matter.