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Pakistani court to hear petition terming women’s rights movement ‘anti-state’



A major women’s rights movement in Pakistan is facing a legal challenge over a march scheduled for March over allegations that the organisers’ activities are `anti-state’.

The event, known as the Aurat March, using the Urdu word for ‘women’, has been held in multiple cities in Pakistan for the last two years to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8.

Organisers on Wednesday say they have faced a backlash from conservative elements in the country, including threats of murder and rape.

A petition attempting to bar the march from its announced venue and ban all associated promotion on social media will be heard by a court in Lahore on Thursday, alleging that heavy funds have been donated to the organisers by anti-state forces.

The case was lodged by a lawyer who has a record of filing cases against freedom of expression on online platforms.

While many of his cases have failed, he recently successfully petitioned the same court to declare former Pakistani military dictator Pervez Musharraf’s death sentence illegal.

The legal complaint said “by openly displaying their aspirations some of these women, men and gays dare to take a step ahead in creating the environment that is traditionally, culturally and morally less binding upon them.’’

The case against the Aurat March also refers to new social media rules, approved by Pakistan’s government, which increase regulation of cyber space and that rights activists say could be used to stifle dissent and free speech.

One of the organisers, Dr Aliya Haider, told Reuters “our lawyer will counter the petition in court tomorrow. We hope that the court will decide the matter on merit.’’

Earlier, supporters said a mural put up in Lahore by volunteers to promote the march was vandalised within hours of being set up, adding that they had permission from the owners of the structure on which the mural was set up.

Authorities are yet to respond to requests to provide CCTV footage to help identify the vandals.

Global human rights watchdogs have noted concerns in recent years over what they see as a growing clampdown on civil society in Pakistan, along with the increased use of sedition and anti-state charges to quell dissent.

The 2019 march attracted thousands of women across Pakistan, which a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll in 2018 found to be the sixth most dangerous country for women.

Edited By: Hadiza Mohammed/Emmanuel Yashim

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Hadiza Mohammed: is a graduate and a professionally trained journalist, with experience in national news reporting/editing and verification at the News Agency of Nigeria. NNN is a Nigerian online news portal that publishes breaking news in Nigeria, and across the world. Our journalists are honest, fair, accurate, thorough and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting news in the best interest of the public, because truth is the cornerstone of journalism and they strive diligently to ascertain the truth in every news report. Contact: editor[at]

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April 2020