News Desk |
The first-ever female cycling ‘peace rally’ in the history of Peshawar that was supposed to be held on the 19th of January was called off amidst outcries from religious leaders and perceived security concerns.
This cycling competition was organized by Zamung Jwand, a Peshawar based non-governmental organization (NGO) that is dedicated to empowering the women of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Once the event was canceled, the religious leaders abandoned the idea of staging a protest. This development was confirmed by senior JUI-F leader, Umar Farooq.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F), the prominent religious party of Peshawar, raised serious objections against this race. And the party leader, Rafiullah Qasimi issued strict warnings that should the race take place, the party leaders will not be afraid to undermine the law, and “roads will be blocked” with protests.
Members of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam and Majlis-e-Ulema called a meeting on Saturday, chaired by Maulana Rafiullah Qasmi, who announced their decision to contact all the authorities to call off the ‘peace rally’. If the event is not canceled, he announced that the rally will be met with a widespread protest, starting at 9 am on Sunday. He remarked, “The women’s bicycle rally is spreading obscenity”, and that such occasions breed “vulgarity” within the community. “
Only a day before the event was scheduled to take place, the organizers were left with no choice but to cancel the arrangements. In an interview conducted by Dawn News TV, Wafaa Wazir, a lead member of Zamung Jwand, revealed that the NGO had obtained a no-objection certificate (NOC) before organizing and announcing the event.
Since the organizers did not seek to cause chaos in the city, a decision was made to delay the event in the wake of the announcement of protests by religious parties. In a strange twist of events, the police denied giving out a NOC or providing security assistance to the organizers.
Wafaa Wazir, the lead organizer, is reported to have said that the first women rally in the history of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was meant to be a “message of peace”.
In a statement given to a leading news publication, SP Cantt Wasim Riaz revealed that the police had not engaged by the NGO personnel. He further added, “Upon obtaining news about the protest announcements against the race, the police approached the organizers and they shared their decision to delay the rally”.
SP Riaz stressed that the NGO should have sought police clearance before holding such an event in Peshawar. He also mentioned that his department received no instructions from the district administration department or other authorities to take security measures for a cycling event for women.
Soon after, the directorate general of sports for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also disowned the event by issuing a distancing statement. The notice issued by the department states, “It has come to the notice of the authorities that some people are agitating protest regarding the organizing of female cycle race. It is clarified that this office is unaware regarding the organizing of the said event.”
Read more: ‘Aurat Bike Rally’: Will it empower women?
The directorate also clarified that the Hayatabad Sports Complex was not allocated to any NGO to hold such an event on the given date. Once the event was canceled, the religious leaders abandoned the idea of staging a protest. This development was confirmed by senior JUI-F leader, Umar Farooq.
Wafaa Wazir, the lead organizer, is reported to have said that the first women rally in the history of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was meant to be a “message of peace”. She added, “Some people said that it is against the religion and we respect their sentiments.”
A mix reaction was observed on social media regarding the rally. Some criticized the JUI-F while others said it was against the culture of Peshawar.
Religious parties opposed Peshawar’s first ever women cycling event. I suggest they should also withdraw their daughters,sisters & wives from Parliament Reserve seats .
— Dr Changez Khan (@drchangezkhan) January 18, 2019
Really ashamed of what JUI-F zealots did to cancel the women and transgender cycle rally in #Peshawar. Women, nearly half of the population are reeling under the pressures of patriarchy. Morality is relative and you can't thrust one-sided moral values on half of the mankind.
— SIKANDAR MEHMOOD KHAN (@Astanizaii) January 19, 2019
Mina Jahangir with additional input by News Desk.