IHC turns down petition seeking ban on Women March 8 petitioners move court against upcoming Aurat March calling it ‘anti-state’, ‘anti-Islam’

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Zubair Qureshi

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday turned down petition challenging proposed Women March in Islamabad and other parts of country and declared it was not maintainable.
Chief Justice Islamabad High Court Athar Minallah in eight-page verdict however maintained the court expected the Aurat March would exercise its constitutional right in accordance with law having regard to conduct that is consistent with norms of society. Earlier the court had reserved verdict on the maintainability of the petition.
Aurat March or “Women March” is scheduled for Sunday, March 8 in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and other cities.
Earlier during the hearing Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah while hearing the arguments of the counsel for some eight petitioners asked why he was opposing the march when according to the organizers it was for the rights of the women in society and would remain strictly within parameters of law.
The counsel replied that the march was against the Islamic values and moral ethos of the Pakistani culture. He also drew the attention of the court to the ‘vulgar’ slogan “My Body, My Choice” and a couple of others. “How can you call them vulgar when the organizers of the march have given a different interpretation,” asked the judge.
The petitioners have appealed to the court to regulate activities like the Aurat March “subject to law, norms, decency and public morality in the best interest of justice and to order the respondents to perform their obligatory duties towards the Constitution and the law of land in this regard and restrain unlawful, unconstitutional and un-Islamic activities forthwith”.
The counsel for the petitioners said he didn’t have any objection to the women seeking their rights. He had problem with the slogans and language used on the banners to be displayed during the march.
The chief justice questioned how the slogans are in contradiction to Islamic values. “The slogans are asking for the rights to women,” the Justice Minallah said. How can one interpret the meaning of these slogans ourselves?
Justice Minallah told the counsel for the petitioners he was seeking action against a thing that had not even taken place. “Your petition is premature,” the judge remarked adding, these slogans are for rights that are not given to women. The federal government and the chief commissioner of Islamabad were also made respondents in the petition filed by eight citizens.
During the hearing, the court also referred to a press conference by the organizers of the women march and stated they wanted to enforce the rights given to women in the constitution.
In reply, the petitioners’ counsel said he had approached the court “to stop those who are having an agenda behind the Aurat March.” The organizers of the march are following the agenda of the anti-state forces and wanted to go against the teachings of Islam and norms of morality, he further said adding the court should ban the march in accordance with the law,” the counsel further prayed.

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