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Maryam Nawaz’s Silence On Threats To Aurat March Casts Doubts On Her ‘Progressive’ Credentials

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As organisers of the upcoming Aurat March receive severe backlash from religious extremist quarters, one cannot help but notice the deafening silence from Maryam Nawaz, a mainstream woman politician and vice president of the PML-N. In fact, a Senator of her party toed the extremists’ line and accused the Aurat March of ‘obscenity’ while demanding an ‘investigation’ into the march.

PML-N Senator Mushahidullah termed the controversial slogan ‘mera jism, meri marzi’ (my body, my consent) ‘obscene’. He even questioned, “which man will allow his mother or sister to go and do this (chanting indecent slogans and showing vulgar placards) on the streets?”

Since no explanation was issued over Mushahidullah’s outburst against the Aurat March, his statement appears to be the PML-N’s party policy.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is the only mainstream political party that has taken a clear position on the Aurat March – whose organisers are being threatened by religious extremist elements on grounds that the march aims to promote ‘vulgarity’. PPP stalwarts, including party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto, Sherry Rehman, Farhatullah Babar and Bakhtawar Bhutto have extended their full support to all those who would take to the streets on March 8.

Firmly throwing his weight behind Aurat March,  Bilawal Bhutto Zardari recently stated that the event will proceed on the 8th of March and that nobody could stop it from happening.

But Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) is largely silent on the debate surrounding the Aurat March.

People belonging to progressive-liberal circles have been criticising PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz for backing the participants and organisers of the Aurat March as leader of a party that claims to uphold progressive values.

If the PML-N leadership is reluctant to lend support to the Aurat March out of fear of losing its mostly conservative vote bank, the least it can do is refrain from engaging in baseless propaganda against the Aurat March organisers. 

The party ought to distance itself from Mushahidullah Khan’s problematic statement about the Aurat March. Political parties must back and encourage citizens, in this case women, who protest or march for their constitutional rights.

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