March 18th, 2021 

By Hamid Riaz 


On Wednesday, March 17, in a meeting of the National Assembly’s Committee on Religious Affairs and Inter-faith Harmony,  the Chairman of the committee, Maulana Asad Mehmood of the Jamiat-Ulema-Islam Fazl-ur-Rehman group (JUI-F), directed the Law and Interior ministries to initiate legal action against “objectionable” and “sacrilegious” posters displayed at the Aurat March held on International Women’s Day.

Asad Mehmood, who is also the son of Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman called the posters displayed at the Aurat March against the spirit of Islam and the Constitution of Pakistan but failed to specifically point out the exact posters he had an issue with. However, even when contacted multiple times for comments, he did not respond directly instead chose to hand over the phone to his assistant.

“The type of posters displayed in March are public knowledge and Maulana sahib has taken an initiative against this social evil,” explained Tariq, his personal assistant. When asked about what action, in particular, is the committee planning to take on the issue, Tariq had no concrete response.

“A lot of options are on the table. Convincing the committee on religious affairs that there is an issue with this March is the first and perhaps the biggest step. The meeting took place only yesterday but we have quite a few possible courses of action we can take. Maulana Sahab will meet like-minded lawmakers and build consensus on the issue so that an assembly-wide action can be planned against the organizers of the Aurat March.”

Asad Mehmood has already directed the law enforcement agencies to dig out the names of the non-government organizations (NGOs) associated with the march and their “sources of funding” and present them in front of the national assembly.

In addition to Asad Mehmood, two female members of the committee on religious affairs, Shahida Akhtar Ali of the JUI-F and Shagufta Jumani of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) also reiterated the same allegations against Aurat March.

Shagufta Jumani said that she is ashamed of the type of banners displayed at the march. However, both the female lawmakers could not be reached for comments.

But an alliance of progressive women has only rubbished these accusations.

“It is a proven fact now that the posters under question were doctored but still some political parties are playing with fire to gain petty popularity,” explains a senior member of the Women Democratic Front (WDF) on condition of anonymity. “Our march is not against Islam and we have said that countless times but these mainstream political parties are playing with the lives of human beings as a publicity stunt,” she says.

“Yesterday Bilawal Bhutto, the leader of the People’s Party met with the organizers of the Aurat March to assure them of his support while his lawmakers in the assembly were busy conspiring against them. This alone tells you about the type of games these people play to gain power,” concludes the WDF representative.

This is in the context of the fact that some members of the WDF were falsely implicated in a blasphemy application a few days ago. Later a police investigation had cleared them of any wrongdoing. Now the issue is being highlighted again without any proof.