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Editorial | Govt Must Break Silence Over Threats To Aurat March Organisers

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Tekreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has threatened the organisers of Aurat March following a barrage of attacks against the participants of the event on social media with doctored photos and videos. The re-emergence of the Taliban should serve as an alarm bell for Pakistan’s state institutions. It was pointed out by local activists time and again that the TTP was staging a comeback in Pakistan’s tribal areas, but these warnings seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. That the Taliban have now begun to threaten Pakistani citizens the way they did before the military action against terrorists is concerning to say the least.

Propaganda against the march and false blasphemy accusations against the organisers and participants continue even after Aurat March organisers explained that the sloganeering and content of some banners was deliberately misrepresented to accuse them of blasphemy. In a country where violence over one’s views and beliefs is a routine occurrence, such threats and dangerous accusations ought to be taken seriously.

Pakistan’s social media sphere witnesses hateful campaigns and general toxicity against feminists in the lead up to the Aurat March that continue even after the event every year. The religious segment has always been hostile to efforts towards progress and its hatred against women trying to reclaim public spaces is not surprising. What is startling is how the government remains unmoved by their threats and refuses to take responsibility for the safety of those at the receiving end of this hateful campaign. Blasphemy accusations levelled online have led to killings in the past, yet the authorities have done little to address the dangerous approach of using religion as a tool to get people killed. Mashal Khan’s lynching in Mardan is just one of the many examples of the consequences such campaigns on social media may have.

The government’s silence amid the propaganda and threats to the organisers and participants of the Aurat March is deafening. Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari who never misses a chance to lash out at Western countries for their treatment of religious and ethnic minorities should issue a statement and do whatever is needed to provide protection to those being threatened by religious fanatics.

Prime Minister Imran Khan must also categorically condemn the online vitriol against the Aurat Marchers so the hooligans can be given a message that the state is not with them. But mere condemnation will not be enough. The national security and law enforcement institutions must act now.

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Naya Daur