August 3rd, 2021
By Zeenat Shehzadi and Muhammad Usman
In the midst of growing alarm over the recent wave of violent crimes against women, an Aurat March rally slated for Sunday, August 1, in Faisalabad was abruptly halted under the pretext of coronavirus restrictions.
However, organizers of the March claim that the Assistant Commissioner (AC) of Faisalabad, Ayub Bukhari, clearly made his disdain for women’s rights movements known to the participants, and was responsible for the event’s cancellation.
Aurat March organizer Maryam Ali related that AC Bukhari summoned her team to his office and told them the rally was a blight on the image of Pakistan, and that if they went ahead with it, he would have everyone arrested.
“Two hours before the march, we were told it had been cancelled by the Faisalabad Assistant Commissioner. He is of the view that Pakistani women already have rights, that [the organizers] are sowing discord and there is no need for an Aurat March,” she declared. “He began intimidating us by ringing up female members and demanding the contact numbers of others. He threatened that he would arrest the younger student participants.”
Hunain Yusuf, a student, said that Bukhari had also allegedly tried goading the organizers into a debate, boasting that he would prove reported incidents of violence against women in Pakistan were all propaganda.
“In the three-hour-long meeting our organization representatives had with the Assistant Commissioner, he kept reiterating that women in Pakistan are given their full rights and therefore there is no need for them to take to the streets to demand their rights,” she alleged.
Hunain also claimed AC Bukhari gave his unsolicited opinion on the Noor Mukadam case, saying that Noor was ‘responsible for her own murder’.
“He said that Zahir is not the only one at fault. Noor was also to blame because she was the one who went to his house. [AC Bukhari] kept saying that ‘it takes two to start a quarrel’, that rape was not a crime committed by an individual, and that it can only with consent,” she said, adding that on average 1,900 cases of child sexual abuse, 1,500 cases of domestic violence in which women lost their lives, 9,000 cases of violence against women, and 3,000 ‘honour’ killings of women are reported each year. “I want to ask the AC that, in light of these cases, how can he say that women are granted their rights?”
Ali Sajjad, a professor by vocation, told Voicepk.net that AC Bukhari used derogatory language against women during their meetings, and that the organizers of the March have been receiving threatening messages for some time now.
“Not only did he tried pressuring us, he talked to us as if he was a party to this, and kept repeating that women are not so oppressed in Pakistan that we need to march for them,” he stated, recalling the AC had made some outlandishly insensitive remarks on the Noor Mukadam case. “He told us that Noor’s murder was a crime of passion, that in these ‘relationships’, men might murder women in a fit of passion.”
When contacted by Voicepk.net to explain his side of things, AC Bukhari refused to speak on camera and explained he denied the organizers permission to hold the rally as they did not have a no-objection certificate (NOC).
This is not the first time the AC has landed in hot water for his behaviour, especially towards women. As AC Sahiwal in 2017, he had ordered lady doctors be deployed as ushers at a government event. When they turned down these duties, he reportedly forcibly barged into the hostel room of some female doctors late at night and threatened them with dire consequences.