Peshawar police book ‘Aurat March’ organisers over blasphemy, no arrests yet

A police complaint has been registered under sections 295-A and 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code

Akshita Jain
Friday 16 April 2021 13:12 BST
Activists of ‘Aurat March’ during a rally to mark International Women’s Day in Islamabad on 8 March, 2021.
Activists of ‘Aurat March’ during a rally to mark International Women’s Day in Islamabad on 8 March, 2021. (AFP via Getty Images)

Police in the Pakistani city of Peshawar have booked the organisers and participants of the “Aurat March” or women’s march in Islamabad on charges of committing blasphemy. 

A police complaint was registered under sections sections that deal with the country’s blasphemy laws and hate speech, according to the Dawn newspaper. No immediate arrests were made. 

A local court had last month ordered the registration of an FIR against the organisers of this year’s Aurat March for allegedly displaying “obscene posters,” according to Pakistan’s Daily Times.  

The court heard a petition filed by a group of Peshawar-based lawyers who alleged that the placards and banners on display during the march in Islamabad were “un-Islamic and obscene” and insulted Prophet Mohammad. 

The petitioners were asked how an FIR could be registered in Peshawar when the march happened in Islamabad. Their lawyer said that the petitioners saw the posters on social media while in Peshawar and the court had the jurisdiction to entertain the petition as the consequence had ensued in Peshawar, according to Dawn.

The march organisers had last month said in a statement: “These lies and the outrageous allegations of blasphemous slogans and banners in particular have been definitively debunked many times over.”

Started in 2018, Aurat March is organised by a collective called “Hum Aurtain” (we the women) and sees participation across Pakistan on 8 March to mark the International Women’s Day.

Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had last month said that the “misuse of blasphemy laws” to target women marchers was “regrettable”.

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