ISLAMABAD: Pakistani women, transgender community, non-binary persons and rights activists took to the streets on Sunday to mark the International Women’s Day in a country-wide event known as the “Aurat March” (woman march).
Pakistan’s first Aurat March was held three years ago in Karachi. Last year, the march was extended to other cities in Sindh and Punjab provinces. This year, the march was held on a larger scale with events even planned in Peshawar in the country’s northwest and Quetta, the capital of southwestern Balochistan province.
While marches in most parts of the country remained peaceful, the Aurat March came under attack in Islamabad, when the marchers were passing through Lal Masjid, a mosque that was operated by Islamic militants until 2007. The mosque and an adjacent seminary for women, Jamia Hafsa, was stormed and captured by the army in July 2007 when former military dictator Pervez Musharraf ruled Pakistan.
To counter Aurat March, students of Jamia Hafsa had organized their own event called “Haya March.” In order to avoid clashes, authorities had erected a tent between the two marches. When the Jamia Hafsa students ended their march, the male participants, mostly students of Lal Masjid, took down the tent and started pelting stones, injuring at least one member of the Aurat March. The situation was soon controlled by the police.
The incident was condemned by the organisers of Islamabad’s Aurat March, who tweeted that “Mullahs (clerics) are stoning the participants of Aurat Azadi March, a march that was and is peaceful”.
“Iss nizaam se hum chahtay hain Azadi! (we want freedom from this system!!)” the tweet further stated.
Separately, female members of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), a rightwing political party, held their own march outside the press club in Islamabad.
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