Women For Peace 

by  Rizwan Atta  26-09-2001 

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A large number of women activists took out a peace rally at Lahore today on 25th September. They chanted slogan against terrorism and religious fundamentalism and warned America not to bomb the Afghan cities. The rally was 
organized by Women Workers Help Line in collaboration with Labour Party Pakistan and Joint Action Committee for Peoples Rights. Many activists from several civil society organizations also participated in the rally. Before the rally, over 500 working class women gathered at Press Club building to participated in a Women Convention to discuss the problems facing working women. This was one of the largest mobilizations of working class women by any organization in recent times. 

Speaking at the Women Convention, Asma Jahangir, the former chairperson of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan termed this large mobilization of women as the new movement to fight a case in a country dominated by religious 
fundamentalism. She said that women are seen shoes of men, which he will wear at his will. We are not shoes of the men; we are equal citizen of this country and will fight for equality. The women are normally told not to go our, not to work, and to fight for equal rights. We will challenge all these reactionary phrases of the Mullahs. 

Commenting on the present situation, she said we do not need an advice from US to fight against terrorism. As victims of terrorism for long time, we know it very well what does it mean to humanity. We have all the sympathies with the victims of the September 11th victims. But we do not want more bloodshed of innocent people. We do not want Afghan and Pakistan innocent people to be victim of another war on the name of curbing terrorism. No terrorism against terrorism. It solves nothing, she declared. 

Speaking on the occasion, Farooq Tariq, general secretary Labour Party Pakistan congratulated the WWHL for organizing such a massive mobilization of working class women. He said that working class women are looking for 
organization where they could fight for their right. Here is WWHL, which has become the pole of attraction for many such persons. He said we are very well aware of the backward cultural traditions on the name of religion, which prohibit women to go to jobs. The working women face much harassment at the jobs. They are not paid equal wages. He gave the example of a factory in his area where women workers are paid only Rupees 1000 ($15) a month. While the female teachers at private schools are paid even less than this. His is a slave labor and we must fight against it. 

He told the charged audience that it was Talbaan regime, which has banned the women to go the jobs. Religious fanaticism is an enemy and we must fight together as a movement. He said that we have always opposed the regime 
of Talbaan but the military regime, which has been funding this brutal regime recently, found out that they must oppose it as well. This was the result of the American pressure on the military regime. He condemned the Bush statement that either you are with us or with terrorist. We are opposing the both. They both are representing terrorism in one way or other. We are against terrorism any kind. We are building a new movement, A movement of peace and equality. He told the Women Convention do sit back, join the LPP alongside with WWHL. 

On the occasion, Azra Shad, the convener of WWHL, Romana Shabnam, a city counselor, Nazli Javed and Balaghat Batool, union counselors, Shahtaj Qazalbash of Joint Action Committee for Peoples Rights Asim Akhtar of 
Federation of kachi Abadies spoke as well and explained the different angels of the struggle of working class women. 

After the meeting, several more representatives of the civil societies organization including South Asia Partnership, SEMORG, Shirkat Ghah, Women Foundation, Lok Rehs, AGHS and several more joined the meeting to take out the 
peace rally. 

The peace rally participants were carrying the placards with the slogan of NO to Terrorism and NO to War. They were raising slogans against the religious fanatics and against the possible bombing of Afghanistan. It was predominantly women participating in the rally. There were all the national and international media to cover this first rally by the progressive forces against the war and terrorism. 

A lot of police was present but did not intervene to stop the rally. Although the rally was in violation of section 144 which has banned all rallies by the military regime of Pakistan. At the end of rally Asma Jahangir and Farooq Tariq spoke again to explain their views and thanked the participants. 

It was announced at the time that there would be a five-day peace camping at the main Mall Road of Lahore at Charring Cross from 26th September from 5 to 8pm every day. 

Report by Rizwan Atta 



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