"It's a violation of our rights."
According to reports, Lahore denied permission for an Aurat March to honour International Women’s Day (IWD).
The Aurat March, which is organised by feminist organisations, typically draws strong opposition.
However, since 2018, marches have been organised in Pakistan’s main cities to raise awareness of women’s rights.
The “controversial cards and banners” that were shown during the march, according to Lahore municipal officials, were to blame for the decision.
In a notice to the march organisers, the authorities also mentioned security concerns.
Hiba Akbar, one of the organisers of the Lahore Aurat March, said:
“It’s a violation of our rights.
“This raises questions about the state’s ability to manage the right to freedom of assembly for both groups.”
Pakistani Aurat March organisers have regularly had to use the judicial system to defeat attempts to outlaw the march.
In the past, the Aurat March demonstrations have addressed issues including divorce, sexual harassment and menstruation, and the organisers have been accused of endorsing Western, liberal ideas while disregarding Pakistan’s religious and cultural sensibilities.
Slamming the ruling, rights group Amnesty International claimed that it “amounts to an unlawful and unnecessary restriction of the right to assembly”.
Amnesty International added: “The use of a draconian colonial-era law to crush dissent hours before several protests, including the annual Aurat March, was scheduled to be held in the city is a stark failure by the Pakistani authorities to respect and uphold the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
“The blanket ban is at odds with Pakistan’s obligations to recognise, respect and facilitate the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
“The ban must be lifted immediately, and all people arrested solely for exercising their right to protest peacefully should be immediately and unconditionally released.”
In Islamabad, the Aurat March has been limited to the city park.
Organisers said: “We are a feminist movement, we will not be in parks but rather on the streets.”
After the debate around the Aurat march plans across Pakistan, IWD 2023 in Islamabad led to a brawl breaking out during a march.
Given the significant number of female marchers, the police claimed that the brawl started when a dispute erupted between protest attendees and the police after the latter inquired about the presence of transgender people at the demonstration.
The police “tried hard to stop the rally”, according to the ladies marching.
Sherry Rehman, the federal minister in charge of combating climate change, attended the march and vehemently denounced the violence that erupted.
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.”