International Women’s Day was marked in Pakistan amid fears of violence as heated debate on social and electronic media had already showed the high level of temperature along the liberal and conservative divide.
Thanks to strict security arrangements, the demonstrations staged by liberal groups in different cities of Pakistan remained peaceful, but Islamabad turned out to be an exception.
Ugly scenes were scene in the federal capital on the Women’s Day when some hardliners belonging to the Lal Masjid brand attacked the Aurat March participants outside Islamabad Press Club.
On being attacked by stones and sticks, some of the Aurat March participants also responded back in the same coin by throwing stones at the attackers.
Several people were reported injured during the clashes. Videos of the scene showed police and some marchers battling to keep in place a tent wall erected on the side of the road to protect the marchers.
Shoes of some of the attackers as well the attacked were scattered on the road after the police successfully fought off the raiders.
Despite the ugly attack, the women – which formed the large majority of the Aurat March participants -continued their march toward D-Chowk.
DC Islamabad ordered registration of an FIR against the yet to be identified attackers.
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan condemned the assault on the Aurat March.
“HRCP condemns the attack by miscreants on Aurat Azadi March participants in Islamabad. However, the sheer strength in numbers and firm resolve of the participants ensured that the march carried on. We stand in solidarity with the marchers & reiterate our support for their demands,” it said in a tweet.
The Aurat March, which has now become a regular Women’s Day feature, is hated by many in the country where the majority of the people are conservative.
Religious circles particularly see this feminist movement of liberal groups as a conspiracy to spread immodesty in Pakistan.
Some of the slogans the organisers and participants have coined are being taken as too offensive.
While most Aurat March participants of 2020 kept confined to chanting slogans and holding banners and placards, some artists used the occasions to celebrate art.
Though Aurat March was a woman-majority event, some feminist men also came out for their support.
In contrast to the ugly scenes created by some hardliners in Islamabad, Jamat Islami organized a peaceful “Haya March” as a counterweight to the Aurat March.
The march was participated by a good number of women who say they are embracing the restriction imposed by religion and society out of their own choice as these bars are actually for their own good.