Islamabad, February 22: As women in Pakistan prepare for 'Aurat March' scheduled to be held on International Women's Day on March 8, the Imran Khan government is seeking to thwart their efforts for women empowerment by hailing hijab in order to promote conservatism, said a think tank, Policy Research Group (POREG).

In order to roll back 'Aurat March' organised every year by Pakistani women on International Women's Day, Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri has appealed to Prime Minister Imran Khan to declare March 8 as International Hijab Day. International Women’s Day 2022: Know Date, IWD Theme, History and Significance of Celebrating the Achievements of Women in Every Field.

The minister has claimed that the 'Aurat March' held across Pakistan on that day since 2018 goes "against the principles of Islam."

In his letter to Imran Khan, Qadri has suggested a regressive measure to alter "the status of an UN-designated international day that aims to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women", reported the think tank.

"No organisation should be allowed to question or ridicule Islamic values, norms of society, hijab or the modesty of Muslim women at the Aurat March or any other event held in connection with International Women's Day as these acts hurt the sentiments of Muslims in the country," read the letter written by the minister.

However, Qadri's statement drew flak from women lawmakers, diplomats and civil society leaders, following which, he issued a clarification saying

"Obscenity and hooliganism in the name of rights should not be allowed under any circumstances," further alleging that his letter "reflected the collective thinking of the Pakistani society," reported POREG.

Aurat March, which was first held in the city of Karachi in 2018, is now organized every year to celebrate International Women's Day. The march highlight the issues women face in Pakistan.

In the last four years, educated urban women, many from mainstream political parties and from the academia in Pakistan have made good use of the Aurat March on the streets and on social media to create awareness of women's dismal conditions in the country, according to the think tank.

Ironically, misogyny and patriarchy in Pakistan have also united staunch rivals- Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government and opposition Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F)- as they both have come together to oppose 'Aurat March' in the country, reported the Dawn newspaper.

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