Organizers of Aurat Aazdi’s annual march on International Women’s Day condemn the allegations as “baseless and false.”
Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistani Police Record Blasphemy Case Against Feminist Aurat Azadi Organizers [Women’s Freedom] March in a city in the northwest, while a court in the country’s second city has dismissed the same charges as unfounded.
Police in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, northwest Pakistan, on Thursday recorded the First Information Report (FIR) under the country’s strict blasphemy laws, which can result in a mandatory death penalty.
In a statement, organizers of the march, which takes place annually to mark International Women’s Day on March 8, condemned the allegations as “baseless and false.”
“Since March, women protesting have faced countless death and rape threats, including a leading newspaper, Daily Ummat, referring to [feminist] walkers like prostitutes and whores, ”the statement read.
“These accusations and threats have now gone so far as to wrongly accuse us of blasphemy, an accusation that seriously endangers the lives of hundreds of women.”
Blasphemy is a hot topic in Pakistan, where the country’s strict laws impose the death penalty for the crime of insulting the Prophet of Islam and carries a life sentence for insulting the holy book. of Islam, the Koran. The feminist organizers were charged with the first offense.
In Lahore, a court dismissed a similar petition because it was based on questionable video evidence and said the right of protesters to protest was protected by constitutional protections for free speech.
“The fact that the petitioner took offense at a vague slogan and called it blasphemy reflects his own state of mind and his way of thinking”, reads Judge Hafiz Rizwan Aziz’s order. .
“He alleged a very serious offense without any amount of supporting documents.”
Blasphemy allegations resurfaced Shortly after this year’s walk, it appears to be focused on video and doctored images. Organizers shared side-by-side comparisons of the original and falsified videos, the last of which made the protesters appear to be chanting against Allah.
“We are accused of crimes we have never committed, slogans that have never been lifted and banners that have never been carried,” organizers said in Thursday’s statement.
“Moreover, the incidents which are falsely labeled as blasphemous in these accusations do not even come from the march in Islamabad and the allegations concerning them have been completely debunked by the media and the respective chapters of the city where they were raised. “
Organizers said the blasphemy case was registered in Peshawar “to satisfy the bloodlust of extremist religious activists.”
This week, the far-right Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party staged days of violent protests across Pakistan over the issue of blasphemy, demanding the expulsion of the French ambassador over comments from the French President Emmanuel Macron last year who were perceived to be “blasphemous”.
The Pakistani government on Thursday declared the TLP a “terrorist organization” and cracked down on activists across the country after at least two police officers were killed and more than 500 injured in the protests.
The French government, for its part, advised all French citizens and businesses to temporarily leave Pakistan due to the security situation surrounding the TLP protests.
Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim