LAHORE: The deputy commissioner (DC) of Lahore, Rafia Haider, has refused permission to organise Aurat March in the provincial capital citing security concerns, alleged public ‘reservation’ and fear of a clash with the right-wing Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) who have ‘announced a program against the Aurat March’.
The organising committee of Aurat March had applied for a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the DC to hold a rally at Nasir Bagh, followed by a march around the park.
However, DC Haider rejected the application, citing security concerns and threat alerts.
“Your application has been examined and it transpires that in wake of the current security scenario, threat alerts and law and order situation, and in light of activities like controversial cards and banners for awareness of women’s rights and strong reservations of [the] general public and religious organisations especially Jamaat-e-Islami, who had also announced a program against the Aurat March.”
The DC claimed that there was a “fear of conflict in [the] two groups” and therefore denied permission for the holding of the Aurat March at Nasir Bagh as well as previous march venues.
“NOC may not be issued for holding Aurat March/ Convention at Alhamra Hall, Mall Road / Aiwan-e-Iqbal, Egerton Road, rally from Press Club, Shimla Hill to Faisal Chowk, Mall Road and also at Nasir Bagh, Lahore”.
She maintained that the NOC plea was rejected “in order to avoid any law and order situation/mishap”.
Taking to social media, the Aurat March organisers “strongly protested the rejection of its application”, adding that the rally had “the right to the assembly under Article 16 of the Constitution of Pakistan”.
“The denial of the NOC application cites the ‘Haya March’ by the Jamaat-e-Islami as the reason for denial,” the statement said.
It added that the DC herself acknowledged that the JI announced a programme against the march, yet it was the Aurat March that was “being denied from exercising its constitutional right, not the group inciting violence”.
“The DC’s actions are a blatant denial of our fundamental rights as a people’s movement. We do not require a NOC to exercise our constitutional right to march. There is no legitimate “public order” rationale to prevent us from assembling”.
The organisers highlighted that courts had “already upheld” the right to hold Aurat March in 2020 and reiterated their resolve to hold the march on March 8 despite the lack of a NOC.
They are set to announce their plan of action in a press conference on March 6 and plan to challenge the initiative of DC Haider in court.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) condemned the DC’s rejection of the NOC plea. It demanded that the caretaker government permit the Aurat March and provide security for it.
It is pertinent to note that last year, the workers of a religious party had protested Aurat March, but due to strict security arrangements, no untoward incident took place.