Questioning the Aurat March


Dost Muhammad Barrech

THE International Women’s Day is celebrated with full of zeal and zest on 8 March every year across the globe. The day is attributed to celebrate woman’s social, political, economic and cultural achievements, shedding light on their rights and gender parity. 8 March/Aurat March, thus, was celebrated in Pakistan with enthusiasm and jubilation where women asserted that they were deprived of their social, economic, political rights and vowed striving for gender parity. Painfully, Pakistan seems to be the only country where Aurat March was assaulted by religious bigots. The attack on Aurat March leaves many questions unanswered. Who are the real culprits behind assaulting Aurat March? Why are misogynists intimidated by Aurat March?
History is a tangible testimony; the patriarchal society of Pakistan does not permit women to exercise their fundamental rights. Religious and cultural justifications given by misogynists to halt women’s economic, social and cultural execution are mere a metaphor in perpetuating man’s superiority over woman. Accusing Aurat March of paving the way for vulgarity and obscenity is highly condemnable. The misogynist needs to read the Sahil report between the lines, claiming that over 10 children in Pakistan are abused daily and more than 3,832 cases of child abuse were reported in 2018. Misogynists ought to answer the question, who are involved in 3,832 child abuse cases? The sexual harassment scandal in University of Balochistan and Gomal University, Professor Prof. Hafiz Salahuddin’s involvement in female harassment is the lucid manifestation of blackmailing and suppressing of women. Arguably, men in Pakistan have tarnished the country’s image more than women. Pakistan’s positive image has overwhelmingly been built by women. When it comes to positive image of the country, the international community brings home the remarkable contribution of first female slain Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Malala Yousafzai, the first Pakistani the youngest Nobel laureate.
Charismatic Benazir Bhutto was the beacon of hope for oppressed and marginalized people of Pakistan and was obsessed with making a prosperous and democratic Pakistan. She was punished for fighting against terrorism, extremism and dictatorship. Incarceration of Benazir Bhutto in jail by dictator Zia-ul-Haq for her struggle in restoration of democracy still echoes in democratic paradigm. Her proverbial struggle in the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) has a long lasting impact on consolidation of Pakistan’s democracy. Bhutto’s guts and resistance against mighty dictators could barely be seen in current male politicians. Malala Yousafzai, the first Pakistani girl and the youngest winner of the Nobel Prize who dared to throw down the gauntlet to Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) explicitly the enemy of Pakistan should have won the laurels in the country. To the contrary, she has persistently been labeled by male chauvinist as foreign agent working under tutelage of Western countries.
Jalila Hiader, a human rights activist who hails from Quetta has recently received the International Woman of Courage award from the US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. Haider is the first lady from oppressed Hazara community to achieve such monumental milestone. “The iron lady of Balochistan” first time appeared into national and international limelight when she began a hunger strike against ethnic cleansing and massacre of Hazara community in Quetta. Haider has constantly been fighting against injustice being committed against woman in public spaces, at work places and at homes. Haider articulates that “at least 2,500 Hazaras have been killed in target attacks and bombings between 2008 and 2018 in 204 incidents”. In such excruciating circumstances, Haider inevitably is an icon for Hazara community. Haider’s praiseworthy role against Hazara ethnic cleansing keeps one at sixes and sevens that her fearlessness against oppressor hardly is found in man.
It is worth to mention the resilience and resistance of Bolan University Medical and Health Services (BUHMS) Quetta female students against university administration. Female students of BUHMS believing in “resistance is existence” made a history when they (female students) were first time in history of Quetta were apprehended by the police. Mahrang Baloch a final year student of MBBS at BUMS was the torch bearer of the protest, demanded the restoration of quota system and reduction of tuition and hostel fees. Mahrang Baloch was also at the forefront in demonstration of female students against the harassment and blackmailing scandal of the University of Balochistan.
Seeing Aurat March in contentions of Khail ur Rehman Qamar and Marvi Sarmad in their recent controversial talk show is irrational. Making a mockery of an individual slogan “my body my choice” simply means snubbing and disgracing women; deeply entrenched injustices against women in society need introspection. Shortly, Aurt March is aimed at women’s emancipation from exploitation at work places, honour killings, sexual harassment. Galvanizing women in economic, social, cultural spheres, woman empowerment and freedom of expression would intrinsically usher the path of luminous future.
— The writer works at the Institute of Strategic Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad.