The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday permitted the Aurat March to proceed in the provincial capital on Wednesday, March 8, to mark International Women’s Day.
Following discussions between the organizers and district administration, Justice Anwaar Hussain said the march could be held from the NADRA office in Shimla Pahari to Faletti’s Hotel from 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Disposing of the organizers’ petition, he further directed them to not invite any guests belonging to any specific sect and restrained them from uploading any controversial statements on social media. In a posting on Twitter, the Aurat March organizers subsequently said the demonstration would launch from Shimla Pahari at 2 p.m.
Last week, Lahore Deputy Commissioner Rafia Haider had refused to grant permission to the Aurat March, citing security concerns, controversial banners supporting women’s rights and the potential of clashes between the marchers and members of the Jamaat-e-Islami’s counter-Haya March. The Aurat March organizers had subsequently filed a petition before the LHC seeking the DC’s order to be set aside, and for the district administration to fully facilitate the successful conduct of the march. Arguing that the order was in violation of their fundamental rights to assembly and freedom of speech, they had sought permission to continue their march to mark International Women’s Day.
During proceedings on Tuesday, Justice Hussain heard from both the deputy commissioner and superintendent of police (security), with the former informing him that the permission was withdrawn due to the prevailing security situation and fears of a “clash” at the event. Expressing dissatisfaction over this explanation, he told the DC that the organizers could not be barred from holding the march.
“Maintaining the law and order situation is purely the responsibility of the administration,” he remarked, noting that the DC’s refusal to grant permission was incorrect. He also urged the organizers of the Aurat March to try and ensure that no clashes occur and directed them to sit them with the DC and local administration to determine a suitable time for the event. The court then adjourned proceedings until 2 p.m. after which the designated time and venue were conveyed to all stakeholders.