ISLAMABAD: The Aurat March, Wednesday, turned ugly when the marchers started chanting slogans against the government and the media and as a result violent clashes broke out between the police and the marchers while the marchers also launched an attack on media persons covering the event.

The organizers of the Aurat March started their programme from outside the National Press Club, where following an exchange of harsh words between the administration and the marchers, the police started a light baton charge on the participants of the rally.

A verbal spat between the participants of the rally and the police occurred when the police questioned why a large number of transgender people are also trying to join the rally.

While the organizers of the Aurat March alleged that the police had tried hard to stop the rally and not allowed them to go up to D-Chowk. Federal Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman also arrived to attend the march but after the marchers started raising slogans against her and the government, left the venue.

The organizers of the march also shouted slogans against Sherry Rehman. One of the organizers of the march, Farzana Bari asked the minister to take the women to D-Chowk, while the minister said that the Islamabad administration has not permitted the participants of the march to go to D-Chowk. “I spoke to Islamabad Inspector General (IG) the other day regarding the march, but he said it was not possible for the police to give permission to go to D-Chowk since he feared there might be a clash between the participants of Aurat march and other activists,” she explained. Later taking to Twitter, Sherry Rehman while condemning the violence said: “Friends from Aurat Azadi March are rightly upset. The Islamabad police had NO business laathi charging a small peaceful procession. It is the women holding laathis that need to be pushed back, not progressive women. Sad to see this happening. Will seek an inquiry”

She added, “I strongly condemn this violence and have sought an inquiry on the incident. There is no excuse for this. That too on Int’l Women’s Day. This is not what we fought for and will not tolerate it. Has been brought to the interior minister’s notice.”

Earlier, during the rally, participants chanted slogans for women’s rights and which later were joined by transgender people, who were stopped by the police and questioned, which created a serious disorder, and the marchers started chanting slogans against the government and the media persons.

Some of the participants of the march attacked the media persons covering the event as a result a woman reporter and a cameraman of a private news channel sustained injuries. Media persons covering the event voiced concerns over the fact that despite covering the incident peacefully all morning, they were attacked and their colleagues were injured.

Farzana Bari said “We want the state to block the path of the “terrorists” and allow us to march.” The marchers further demanded that the deputy commissioner and the DIG should resign. Following the spate that broke out, a number of people and civil society organisations condemned the police action against the participants of the women’s march.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) while condemning the police action, on Twitter stated: “HRCP deplores the use of force by the Islamabad police against citizens at the Aurat Azadi March. We are also concerned by reports that religious organizations have tried to hinder women from taking part in the march. Women have as much right to peaceful assembly as any citizen.”

While Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah also took notice of the incident: “The police personnel involved in baton-charging the participants of the Women’s March have been suspended. Moreover, other persons responsible for misbehavior are also being identified, and proper action will be taken against them too.”

The Islamabad Police too took to Twitter: “Islamabad Police stands with the march participants in the struggle and protection of women’s rights. IG Islamabad has directed the DIG Operations to ensure the security of Aurat March and Tahafuz Feminist Rallies.”The spokesperson of the Islamabad Capital Police also confirmed that the three officials who hit women with batons have been suspended. “Those responsible are being determined, against whom action will also be taken,” he said.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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