Minister pledges safety for Aurat March after NOC refusal on security grounds

LAHORE: The caretaker government of Mohsin Naqvi in Punjab has given assurance that it will not impede Aurat March protesters in the province, saying all concerns raised by the organisers of the country’s largest women’s rights event had been addressed.

Last month, the Aurat March organising committee requested a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the district administration to stage a demonstration on International Women’s Day on March 8 at Nasir Bagh in Lahore, followed by a march around the park’s perimeter.

However, the deputy commissioner, Rafia Haider, declined the plea, citing the current security scenario, threat alerts, and law and order situation.

Subsequently, the organisers petitioned the Lahore High Court (LHC), challenging Haider’s decision, calling it “arbitrary, discriminatory, and ultra vires” of various constitutional articles. The petition is set to be heard on Monday by Justice Muzammil Akhtar Shabbir.

In a statement, Information Minister Aamir Mir said the government had decided to provide complete police security to event participants, and the caretaker government would not obstruct demonstrators, as they believed in the freedom of all individuals.

The minister hoped that the event would proceed peacefully.

Mir’s response came after the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) denounced the move by the Lahore district administration, calling it “regrettable”.

In a statement shared on Twitter, the body had said 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.

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

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