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‘Backlash Against Aurat March Is An Attempt To Target Islamabad’s Progressive Activists’

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Press Release

The Awami Workers Party (AWP) has condemned in the strongest possible terms the ongoing smear campaign against progressives that continues almost three weeks after the Aurat Azadi March held on 8th March.

The AWP leadership and rank-and-file has vowed to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with political activists in Islamabad that are bearing the brunt of patently false allegations that they raised anti-Islamic slogans and banners, and has demanded that state institutions take clear action against the elements that are peddling lies which are putting the lives of progressive political workers at risk.

AWP federal president Yousuf Mustikhan, general secretary Akhtar Hussain, Punjab president Ammar Rashid, Sindh president Bakhshal Thalho, KP President Haider Zaman, Balochistan President Yousuf Kakar, Seraiki-Waseb President Farhat Abbas, Gilgit-Baltistan AWP leader Baba Jan, JKAWP Nisar Shah and Secretary Women Alya Bakhshal in a joint statement noted that while the backlash against Aurat March activities from reactionary forces has been a recurring theme over the past few years, the backlash this year has targeted progressive political workers in Islamabad.

They said that two recent orders issued by sessions courts in Karachi and Peshawar directing police in these two cities to file FIRs against AAM Islamabad organisers follow a clear pattern that has been in evidence since shortly after 8th March in which events alleged to have taken place in the Karachi and Lahore Aurat March rallies has been attributed to Islamabad.

The AWP leaders have said that two particular incidents have been repeated time and again that have no relation to the Aurat Azadi March event in Islamabad, namely a banner from the Lahore March and a video of sloganeering form the Karachi March. In any case, the utterly outrageous social media propaganda that the banner and video contained blasphemous materials has been completely and definitely debunked. But these lies continue to be circulated, and Islamabad-based political activists repeatedly targeted.

The AWP leadership is particularly concerned that these flagrant lies have now spilled over into the domain of courts. This represents an extremely dangerous precedent, especially given that local police and administrations in Islamabad, Karachi, Peshawar and all other cities in which Aurat March activities took place have refused to lodge FIRs given the complete absence of genuine evidence of objectionable material or slogans. The AWP has demanded that the PTI government take note of the fact that a smear campaign is being conducted against Islamabad-based political workers that have bravely and consistently supported not only the feminist movement in the form of the Aurat Azadi March but all class, ethnic-national, ecological and democratic movements spearheaded by progressive forces.

While the primary responsibility for the safety of peaceful political workers and to ensure that dubious elements do not inflame religious passions on the basis of clearly doctored materials lies with the PTI government, the AWP calls on all progressive and democratic forces to stand clearly against the victimization of the feminist political movement and Islamabad’s progressive political workers. In an environment of increasing repression, it is imperative that all progressives unify to defend one another’s freedoms, and to also push back against reactionary forces that are hell bent on terrorizing those who speak for the equality, freedom and dignity of all Pakistanis regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion or caste.

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