As the Aurat March approaches, a last petition at the Islamabad High Court is dismissed by the Chief Justice

Representatives of a religious group filed an application at the Islamabad High Court to restrict and regulate the Aurat March, only to see it being dismissed.

The non-maintainable application was filed on (enter date) As the cause list listed it as an urgent case, it was heard by the Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court, Justice Athar Minallah himself.

However after the hearing, Justice Minallah reserved the verdict on the maintainability of the application against Aurat March.

The petitioners gave examples of three main slogans that were expected to be chanted at the Aurat March across the country and argued that it was against the basic principles of Islam and also not from the ambit of the constitution.

But the Chief Justice remarked that the petitioners could not assume but only take up a case if there was a direct violation of the constitution. He also emphasized that things must be taken in a constructive manner as this was the time for introspection within society.

Dismissing the petition the court order says that tribal and other societal norms seem to have taken precedence over Islamic injunctions. Girl children were not safe and there could not be a more offensive illustration than the unimaginable pain and agony suffered by Zainab.

“The alarming aspect is that there is no outrage against the practices and mindsets which are a blatant violation of the unambiguous injunctions of Islam. The practices and attitudes highlighted above are prevalent in our society and are public knowledge. Evidence of these practices are the female victims whose heartrending stories are heard by the Courts across the country on a daily basis. These norms are not only offensive but blasphemous,” reads the order.

“The petitioners and the society should demonstrably show their abhorrence and outrage against the norms of certain sections of our society, which are in defiance to the Islamic injunctions, some of which have been discussed above. There is a need to accept the reality and to change mindsets by demonstrably showing outrage against the flagrant violations of the commands of Almighty Allah. Islam had brought a revolution against tribal patriarchal culture and misogynist norms.”

In the concluding note of the written order, it says that “the prayer sought is not justiciable nor is the petition maintainable. However, this Court expects that the proponents of the “Aurat March” will exercise their constitutional rights in accordance with law having regard to conduct that is consistent with the norms of decency. It is an opportunity for them to prove those who doubt their intentions wrong. The petitioners and citizens are expected to take this as an opportunity to introspect and demonstrably show outrage against the practices, which are flagrantly offensive to the injunctions of Islam e.g. mindsets that do not welcome the birth of a female child, honour killings, rape, practices such as Wani, Swara, Karokari, etc. If this happens, then many innocent ‘Zainabs’ will be saved from being treated savagely.

“The Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) had spent years trying to change mindsets and that is the need of the hour. The tribal patriarchal traditions and societal norms, based on egos and obscure insecurities, which offend the injunctions of Islam, have to be defeated through collective struggle so that no mother, sister or daughter suffers the agony of litigation to assert rights of inheritance nor innocent ‘Zainabs’ have to endure unthinkable pain and agony. The petition is, therefore, accordingly dismissed.

Once the hearing ended, the petitioners and their supporters, including clerics, surrounded the PPP secretary general and former Senator Farhatullah Babar just outside the court room.

They expressed their frustration and disappointment towards Senator Babar for siding with Aurat March. However Senator Babar told them that things should not be taken hypothetically in this case.

Meanwhile, President of the Women Democratic Front, Ismat Shahjahan told voicepk.net that the court order came as a relief.

“Now we will be able to march on Sunday and hope that the people of Islamabad as well as all over Pakistan will stand with us because it is the question of the future of our daughters, sisters and mothers and we want to build the kind of society where humans are fair to one another, where everyone gets to live with dignity, equal rights with an end to exploitation. This is our message for Pakistanis and I believe they will respond positively”.

Veteran women’s rights activist Farazana Bari said the negative publicity had been unnecessary from the start.

“There was no need for such controversy,” she says. “It is a woman’s fundamental right to celebrate and commemorate International Women’s Day. If you look at the demands in the charter of last and this year’s Aurat March have nothing in contradiction with the Constitution of Pakistan or Islam.”

Bari believes that the petition was only filed because there is a growing anxiety regarding such a large number of women showing street power – especially the young ones. “Celebrating the women’s movement is not only demanding rights from the State but from the male family members as well, including the sharing of household work. I think this is where the men are feeling jittery because they are probably thinking ‘how dare these women stand up and question a man’s control over their bodies as properties’ but women have refused to be their property and that’s all.”

 

Report by Haider Kaleem & Anas Mallick