Let them march!

The state’s sorry attitude

Another 8th of March rolls near and, as always, a debate stirs up about the Aurat March, which takes place that day every year, in order to commemorate the World Women’s Day. Sexism is a trait as old as time, so ‘debate’ shouldn’t be a bad word, even if anti-feminist voices go more shrill at that time. That debate, the determined women who organise the march in different cities every year, can take on with aplomb. The problem, one that shouldn’t rear its head in a civilised state, is that of security for the march and the near abdication of the state of its responsibilities.

TIll the filing of this editorial, the Islamabad and Multan administrations have not provided an NOC, with the former citing a possible security situation given the counter-movement’s Haya March. The Aurat March in Lahore was initially not given the NOC, citing a similar security situation, but the Lahore High Court has issued a notice on a petition challenging this denial of permission.

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This is a ridiculous response by the state, on more levels than one. Why is the Haya March seemingly being facilitated and not the other march? Is this an endorsement by the state of the nagging suspicion in everyone’s mind that the state will bend to the will of those who have an implicit threat of violence in their demeanour as opposed to those who will undertake peaceful activities? Similar to the difference in the state’s response towards the non-violent PTM versus its response to the TLP, which was anything but non-violent.

And even if the Haya March were being treated in the exact same manner as the Aurat March, why would the prospect of a potential clash be enough for the state to seemingly abdicate its responsibilities to protect its citizens who are exercising their right to free speech?

Perhaps the real reason is a general distaste for women asking for a better world to begin with. In a recent interview of the President on the difficulties the Aurat March organisers were facing in obtaining an NOC, the Symbol Of The Federation said there was no need for protests; that progress was’t ever made through protests. Words that must have been running through his head during his party’s bizarre 140-day-plus protest, during which he raided the headquarters of the state broadcaster, along with his party’s henchmen.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].


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