March 6, 2023

By Ahmed Saeed


The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday issued notice to the Lahore deputy commissioner (DC) and city police for March 7 (tomorrow) on a petition challenging the denial of permission to hold the Aurat March on International Women’s Day.

The organisers of the annual Aurat March had approached the court over the district administration’s refusal to issue a no-objection certificate (NOC) for holding a rally in the city in connection with International’s Women Day on March 8.

The petition was heard by a single-member bench of Justice Anwaar Hussain. The court instructed the Additional Advocate General to apprise the Lahore DC Lahore and the Civil Lines Superintendent Police about appearing before the court with a “workable plan” for holding the Aurat March in a secure environment.

The petition was filed by veteran rights activist Khawar Mumtaz, artist and activist Leena Ghani and advocate Hiba Akbar. Sabahat Rizvi, the newly-elected secretary of the Lahore High Court Bar Association,  and senior lawyer Asad Jamal appeared before the court on behalf of the petitioners.

Earlier, the petition was fixed before Justice Muzammil Akhtar Shabbir but he recused himself from the hearing, citing personal reasons. The case was when then fixed before Justice Anwaar Hussain for an urgent hearing.
Counsel Sabahat Rizvi pleaded that the Sindh High Court and the Lahore High Court had given various judgments in which the courts declared that stopping women from holding a rally is a  violation of their constitutional rights.

Rizvi told the court that the Aurat March organisers in Lahore gave an application to the Lahore DC Lahore for issuance of NOC to gather at Nasir Bagh for the annual Aurat March followed by a rally till Istanbul Chowk. However, the Lahore DC not only refused to issue them the NOC for Nasir Bagh but also stopped the women from gathering at many other public spots, including the Lahore Press Club to Edgerton Road which is a traditional route of the Aurat March, Rizvi added.

The DC’s order stated that the NOC was being denied “in [the] wake of the current security scenario, threat alerts and law and order situation, and in light of activities like controversial cards and banners for awareness of women’s rights and strong reservations of general public and religious organizations especially Jamaat-e-Islami (women’s /student wings), who had announced a program against Aurat March”. “There is a fear of conflict between two groups, therefore, the NOC may not be issued for the holding of Aurat March/Convention at Alhamra Hall, Mall Road / Aiwan-e-Iqbal, Egerton Road, rally from Lahore Press Club, Shimla Hill to Faisal Chowk, Mall Road, and also at Nasir Bagh, Lahore, on 08.03.2023 in order to avoid any law and order situation/mishap,”

.After hearing Rizvi’s arguments, Justice Hussain questioned the Punjab Additional Advocate General about whether the authorities have also stopped Jamaat-e-Islami from holding a rally. The AAG responded in the negative, to which Justice Hussain said that If they could be allowed then why were they stopping Aurat March?

In his response, the AAG stated that the holding of the Aurat March could lead to a law and order situation because of the controversial placards and slogans. However, the court said the administration could restrict the Aurat March to a specific point and it could take legal action if the organisers violate any law.

The court said that stopping women from holding a march is not a solution and it is against the various fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution. Justice Anwaar Hussain said if the administration could allow political parties to hold rallies then women should also be allowed to gather and hold a rally in the city.
The court adjourn the hearing till March 7 (tomorrow) and asked the DC Lahore to appear in person with a workable plan to ensure the peaceful holding of the Aurat March in the city.



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