The recent images of law enforcement baton-charging people women marching for their rights on International Women’s Day once again reinforces the fact that Pakistan remains no country for women.
As a story in Dawn noted, “scenes witnessed on television screens the other day were a disturbing reminder of state excesses that have been the hallmark of dictatorial regimes. While the capital city’s law-enforcement personnel were baton-charging women marching for their rights, the Punjab police were shelling protesters, destroying private property and beating up citizens gathered to engage in what normally would have been a very ordinary political activity. It is shameful that participants of an Aurat March were assaulted right under the federal government’s nose. It appears that despite the long struggle to create spaces that allow ordinary women to express themselves publicly, the state continues to view them with contempt. The scuffle between the women and police officers reportedly broke out over a vehicle fitted with loudspeakers, which the police wanted to seize. Just what threat the state perceived from those loudspeakers, likely only playing women’s rights slogans, is anybody’s guess.”
Even though the government has apologised for what happened, “the fact is that its hyper paranoia is turning it against its own citizens, even if they only remotely threaten its control. While the action was quick against the low-ranking officers blamed for scuffling with the women in Islamabad, the Punjab regime appeared less remorseful. It must be asked why the caretaker set-up ruling the province felt the need to go to such extremes to thwart an announced political rally. The death of a political worker during the Lahore clashes is particularly concerning. The PTI has claimed the civilian was killed in police custody, and the post-mortem report suggests foul play. The matter must be investigated thoroughly.”
As an editorial in Dawn noted, “The general ugliness of the state’s reaction suggests that those in power are frustrated to the point that they are willing to terrorise ordinary citizens to maintain their control. With the police forces acting as if they have carte blanche against ordinary civilians, there is real danger that future confrontations will spiral into more extreme violence.”
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