Clashes erupted during the Aurat March being held in the federal capital Islamabad, as Pakistan along with the rest of the world celebrated International Women’s Day on Wednesday to recognise the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
United Nations’ theme for the day is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”, which highlights the importance of technology in advancing rights and the impact of the growing digital gender gap on women’s job opportunities to online safety.
POLICE BATON-CHARGE ISLAMABAD MARCH
The march in Islamabad turned unruly when a woman participant allegedly pushed aside Superintendent of Police Nausherwan for blocking their path.
Police are said to have retaliated with baton-charge on the women marchers.
Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman condemned the Islamabad police’s action against citizens participating in the Aurat March.
“The Islamabad police had no business baton-charging a small peaceful procession,” she tweeted after a video of a police official pushing a female participant back emerged online.
“It is the women holding laathis that need to be pushed back, not progressive women. Sad to see this happening. I will seek an inquiry,” she said.
In another tweet, she strongly condemned the violence, adding that she had sought an inquiry on the incident. “There is no excuse for this. That too on International Women’s Day. This is not what we fought for and will not tolerate it,” she said.
The minister added that the incident had been brought to the attention of Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah.
One of the march’s organisers, Punjrush, explained what had happened, saying that transgender persons were performing when police charged at the protesters, causing some of them to get “crushed”.
“Then they started pushing us so we started to push back […] and then they started fighting and we started fighting and it just got confusing,” she said.
Interior Minister Sanaullah, meanwhile, said he had taken strict notice of the behaviour meted out to the participants of the march. He said that the Islamabad police chief had been summoned and “strict legal action” would be taken against those responsible for “this mistreatment”.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) also condemned the alleged use of force by the Islamabad police. It said it was also concerned about reports that religious organisations were trying to hinder women from taking part in the march.
“Women have as much right to peaceful assembly as any citizen. The police are supposed to provide security to the marchers, not to resort to violence against peaceful demonstrators,” the commission said.
Meanwhile, Islamabad police said Inspector General Islamabad Dr Akbar Nasir Khan had taken notice of the incident and sought a report from the DIG operations.
“Islamabad police apologises for this incident,” the force’s official Twitter handle said, adding that the Islamabad IG had asked the IDG Operations to identify those responsible and take action against them.
“The Islamabad police stands with the participants of the march for the struggle and protection of women’s rights,” the statement said.
It added that the Islamabad IG had also directed the officials concerned to ensure the security of Aurat March and the Tahaffuz Haqooq Niswan rally.
Earlier, participants of Islamabad’s Aurat March started their procession from the National Press Club to D-Chowk.
However, police blocked the roads by putting up containers and barbed wire. At this, the march participants and police force came face to face.
The women removed the barbed wires placed in front of the press club. Additional contingents of women officials of Islamabad police were summoned.
PRESIDENT, PM, FM LAUD WOMEN
President Dr Arif Alvi, in his message, called for the need to expand women’s access to technology and digital literacy programmes, especially in far-off areas of the country.
Dr Alvi emphasised that more women should be encouraged to participate in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields besides providing them access to the internet, laptops and other digital technologies.
It is critical to provide resources and support to female entrepreneurs and business owners in order for them to become financially independent, President Alvi added.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that International Women’s Day was the day to honour women for playing a key role in society and contributing to the evolution of human civilisation.
“History is witness that the development of human society is not possible without the constructive role of women,” the PM said.
PM Shehbaz called on society to work together to ensure more empowerment, protection and fair rights for women, saying that Islam granted equal rights to women 1,400 years ago.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari also shared his thoughts on the occasion saying that the dream of making Pakistan a cradle of peace, prosperity and progressive thinking can’t be fulfilled without the equal and full participation of women in every sector.
A statement issued by Media Cell, Bilawal House, said that the FM said that from education and training and professional sectors to politics and higher policy-making institutions, the involvement of women is essential. “Educated and confident women can play a game-changing role in Pakistan’s development,” he added.