‘Security threat’ forces denial of Aurat March rally permission in Lahore

LAHORE: The caretaker government in Punjab of Mohsin Naqvi, the chief minister, has refused to grant permission for a public rally to commemorate International Women’s Day on March 8, organised by the Aurat March, a women’s rights movement in Pakistan.

After the organisers of Aurat March requested permission to hold a rally to mark the event, the deputy commissioner of Lahore, Rafia Haider, denied the request, citing security threats as the reason.

In response to this decision, the Aurat March organising committee took to Twitter to express their strong condemnation and outrage.

They argued that the no objection certificate was rejected due to the Haya March by Jamaat-i-Islami, yet it was the Aurat March that was being denied its “constitutional right, not the group that was inciting violence.”

Haider’s “actions are a blatant denial of our fundamental rights as a people’s movement. We do not require an NOC to exercise our constitutional right to march,” the organisers declared.

They also claimed that “there is no legitimate public order rationale [sic] to prevent us from assembling, marching and making our voices heard.”

Aurat March, a country-wide event, using the Urdu word for women, campaigns for reclaiming space for women as well as the LGBT community, and has been attended by tens of thousands since its birth in 2018 to mark the day.

Separately, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) also denounced the move by the Lahore district administration, calling it “regrettable”.

The organisation noted it was disappointing that the right to peaceful assembly was regularly challenged under the pretext of “controversial” placards and public and religious organisations’ “strong reservations”, which ostensibly created law-and-order risks.

The HRCP demanded that the caretaker government in Punjab must protect the Aurat March’s right to peaceful assembly and ensure the marchers’ security.

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