PPP chairperson says in today’s Pakistan, women can join any profession they want, protest in any manner they choose
The Aurat March 2020, set to take place this Sunday, International Women’s Day, will proceed as planned and no one can stop it from happening, Pakistan Peoples Party Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said on Thursday.
Addressing the PPP Women’s Convention in Lahore, Bilawal came out in full support of the Aurat March and told its detractors their regressive views would no longer be tolerated. “Today, Pakistani women will march; today, Pakistan women, if they want, will become doctors, lawyers, members of the armed forces… if a Pakistani woman so desires, she will even become the prime minister,” he said to thunderous applause. “There is no one—whether politician, maulana, or TV anchor—who can block their path,” he added.
Referring to his mother, assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, Bilawal said it was she who had shown the path to independence to Pakistan’s women. “This path was shown by the PPP,” he said, adding that his party would never back down from its support of women.
“No one has the authority to tell the women of Pakistan how to do politics, of what their politics should be, of what they should or should not protest,” he said.
The PPP leader urged the provincial and federal governments to ensure that any women protesters—regardless of their political affiliation—be assured security. “It is the responsibility of the state to ensure that anyone who is threatening [women], trying to stop them is arrested, thrown in jail,” he said. “This is the Pakistan of Fatima Jinnah. This is the Pakistan of Benazir Bhutto. This is the Pakistan of all women who reside in it,” he added.
Bilawal isn’t the only politician to speak out about the Aurat March in recent days. Last week, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman accused the marchers of promoting “vulgarity” through the use of the slogan ‘mera jism, meri marzi’ (my body, my choice). He urged his followers to not let Pakistan’s “eastern values” be subsumed by western thoughts.
From the government, Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry has urged the Punjab government to ensure the protection of marchers—even if there are some concerns about the modalities of their protest.
Similarly, Special Assistant to the P.M. on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan said insulting women on TV was “unacceptable.” She was referring to a talk show released earlier this week in which director and writer Khalilur Rehman Qamar abused activist Marvi Sirmed over the ‘mera jism, meri marzi’ slogan, prompting massive backlash on social media.