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Friday, July 19, 2024  
13 Muharram 1446  

Courts decide fate of Aurat March as organizers make strong push

Lahore High Court summons DC Rafia Haider and SSP Dost Muhammad
Aurat March held to mark the International Women’s Day in Islamabad. AFP/File
Aurat March held to mark the International Women’s Day in Islamabad. AFP/File

A Lahore judge has refused to hear an Aurat March petition challenging the deputy commissioner’s decision to deny permission to rally on March 8, International Women’s Day.

Justice Muzammil Akhtar Shabbir referred the matter to the chief justice who then assigned Justice Anwar Hussain to hear the petition.

Aurat March is being represented by Advocate Asad Jamal and the newly elected secretary of the Lahore Bar Association Sabahat Rizvi.

The Lahore High Court had summoned Deputy Commissioner Rafia Haider and SSP Dost Muhammad to be in court on March 7, Tuesday. The administration said it was denying permission to stage a rally in the city because of “security concerns”.

Meanwhile, Sindh High Court’s Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M. Sheikh rejected a plea to ban Aurat March on Monday and fined the petitioner named Bisma Noreen Rs25,000. The court ordered that the petitioner’s national identity card be blocked by NADRA in case of non-payment of the fine.

Bisma Noreen said in her petition that Aurat March should be banned because its slogans were against society’s values.

The court said, however, that the Constitution grants freedom of movement to all citizens. Justice Ahmed said it seemed that the purpose of filing the petition was to gain publicity as the petitioner had no substantial argument to support a ban on the march.

Lahore DC rejects NOC

Earlier this month, Lahore Deputy Commissioner Rafia Haider rejected permission to organize Aurat March. The decision was taken because of “security concerns, threat alerts, controversial cards and banners for awareness of women’s rights, and strong reservation of the general public and religious organizations, especially Jamaat-e-Islami.”

It mentioned the likelihood of clashes with members of JI’s ‘Haya March’.

The Aurat March organizing committee had requested a no-objection certificate (NoC) from the district administration to hold the event at Alhamra Hall, Mall Road/Aiwan-e-Iqbal, Egerton Road, and a demonstration from the Press Club, Shimla to Faisal Chowk, Mall Road and also at Nasir Bagh. DC Haider rejected the plea “in order to avoid any law and order situation/mishap”.

The Aurat March organizers called the DC’s actions a “blatant denial” of their fundamental rights as a people’s movement. The organizers said that they did not require an NoC to exercise their constitutional right to march. “There is no legitimate public order rationale to prevent us from assembling, marching, and making our voices heard,” they said on Twitter.

Information minister weighs in

The interim Punjab government claimed on Sunday that it would not put any obstacles in the way of Aurat March in Lahore. “The reservations of the organizers of Aurat March have been allayed,” Interim Information Minister Amir Mir said in a statement two days after the Lahore district administration refused permission.

“The Punjab government will provide complete security to the participants of Aurat March,” the statement said and expressed hope that Aurat March would be held peacefully.

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Aurat March