ISLAMABAD: As women and transpersons gathered for the Aurat March rally Wednesday, a violent fight erupted outside the Press Club during which the police beat the attendees with batons and allegedly tried stopping the rally.
Every year, women and gender minorities in Pakistan conduct a rally under the banner of the Aurat March movement on International Women's Day with the aim to demand their rights, voice their grievances and celebrate womanhood.
The fight broke out following an argument between the rally's participants and the police when it enquired transpersons about their presence at the rally, the police said, given the large number of female participants in the march.
Meanwhile, women at the march alleged that the police “tried hard to stop the rally”.
Federal Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman also participated in the rally and strongly condemned the violence that broke out.
Taking to her Twitter handle, Rehman 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”
In another tweet, she said: “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.”
During the rally, participants chanted slogans for women's rights and were joined by transgender people, whom the police stopped to question.
Soon there was serious disorder outside the Islamabad Press Club, and the marchers began to raise slogans against the government and the media.
Several reporters present at the event voiced concerns over the fact that despite covering the incident peacefully all morning, they had come under the wraps of the fight. A woman reporter and a cameraman from a local news channel also sustained injuries.
The organisers of the march also shouted slogans against Rehman, who then left the venue.
Human rights activist Farzana Bari demands that Rehman take the woman to D Chowk. However, the climate minister said that the IG couldn't give permission.
“I spoke to Islamabad IG yesterday regarding the march, but he said it was not possible for him to give permission to go to D Chowk since he feared there might be a clash,” she explained.
To this Bari responded: “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 DIG should resign.
“It is a pity that the peaceful women's march was a victim of the conflict,” Rehman said condemning the violence that broke out.
She maintained that the administration should have decided the route first.
Following the spate that broke out, a number of people and organisations have spoken up against the administrations and condemned the brutality.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) tweeted:
“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 has also taken notice of the incident.
“I have taken strict notice of the behaviour meted out to the participants of the women's march in Islamabad. The IG Police Islamabad has been summoned, and strict legal action will be taken against those responsible for this mistreatment,” the federal minister tweeted.
The Islamabad Police too took to its Twitter handle and wrote: “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 Awrat March and Tahuzaf Feminist Rallies.”