“Women, Oppressed Nations, and the Working Class will Define the Future of Pakistan.”

Press Release

Democratize, Decolonize, Demilitarize, and Deradicalize Pakistan!

Islamabad, (Pakistan), March 5, 2023: The Women Democratic Front (WDF) and Aurat azadi March (AAM) held ‘Aurat Azadi Jalsa’ to commemorate 113th International Working Women’s Day. Scores of citizens, including women, students, trade unions lawyers, and progressive political organisations attended the Jalsa, that was held in F-9 Park.

WDF founded Aurat Azadi March along with its founding congress on International Working Women’s Day, 2018 in Islamabad. For the last five years, WDF has continued organising it in all provinces, while building solidarities with other resistance movements. Members of WDF foregrounded the mutual solidarity of progressive movements, without which creating a great revolutionary force to overthrow the exploitative systems would not be possible.

The organisers of the jalsa also released a communique that included resolutions for the democratisation of the country’s economy, land reforms, and the return of lands, mines and water reserves occupied by the federal government back to the federating nations. It marks the theme of the jalsa this year: “restore economy, flood affectees, and peace.”

All speakers at the jalsa underscored that Pakistan is on the brink of disasters on multiple fronts. The catastrophic floods last year left millions homeless and bereft of any hope for survival, as the affectees suffer from hunger, disease, and extreme poverty. Meanwhile, patriarchal violence continues unabated, and has established deep roots in both institutional and societal forms. Pakistan records a sharp rise in terrorist attacks with 58 incidents in 28 days.

Ismat Shahjahan, President WDF, declared, “The country is facing an imminent economic collapse, due to capitalism, financial imperialism, and prolonged proxy wars. Nothing less than a progressive gender agenda would work including a decolonized and demilitarised economy and state, a secular and democratic state and society, progressive taxation, and urban and agrarian land reforms. She said that no society can progress without free education and healthcare for all, and demanded an end to privatisation and huge subsidies to the elite.”

Ismat strongly condemned the ongoing war by the state on oppressed nations. She said that “we must have a voluntary federation that guarantees the right to self-determination to all federating nations, and a complete stop to state oppression, national oppression, and genocides of Baloch and Pashtun nations. The rising state oppression of Baloch women is highly condemnable and demanded the release of all enforceably disappeared people, most importantly Baloch women. We need peace from the borders to the home, which has become a site of patriarchal violence and femicide due to over development of patriarchy and a culture of violence and war. She said there must be a complete end to proxy wars, military operations, and state repression of oppressed nations and persecuted religions.”

Gulzar Begum, leader of the All Katchi Abadi Alliance and Awami Worker’s Party, called for the regularisation of all katchi abadis, bastiyaan and goth, where people from war-torn areas, feudal heartlands, and poverty-stricken villages take refuge. She said, “Our katchi abadis are not only drowned in floods but also in the sea of inflation.” She demanded a decrease in the prices of daily amenities, as well as urban land reforms to create housing space for working class.

Anam Rathore, organiser of the jalsa and co-founder of Climate Action Pakistan, highlighted, “The interwined nature of economic and climate crises have left many of our people at the mercy of nature and an apathetic state. We need an eradication of the colonial model of river management, which cannot be done without addressing the gross negligence of the state.”

She added, “Devolution of fiscal and political powers to provinces and district governments would equip them to deal with natural disasters and pandemics more effectively. However, our government has not only failed us in terms of devising a resolute economic and climate justice plan but has also accepted all IMF conditions shamelessly to add insult to our injuries.”

Farzana Bari, Secretary Women of AWP, stated, “We must recognize the interconnected nature of these crises, and the various forms of chronic oppression and exploitation faced by women. We need to continue organising together to build an egalitarian society.”

Apart from the imperialist borrowing from international financial institutions, excessive military spending was also criticised. Farzana spoke, “Increased military spending leads to more debt, resulting not only in state budget cuts and withdrawal and absolution from public welfare, but also in the avoidance of responsibility our state owes to the people.” However, as the speakers kept reinforcing, the state kept giving tax breaks to the rich, increasing the defence budget, and giving amnesty to corporations and real estate brokers instead of giving the working people of Pakistan any economic respite.

Pakeezah, member of WDF, pointed out the rising transphobia against khwaja siras, as a sinister disinformation campaign looms large and puts them in grave danger. “We need to continue building cross-movement solidarities in order to sow the seeds of pro-people feminist politics.”

An art performance, ‘Dharti ka Dum Ghuttha Hai,’ was also a part of the program. “Our survival and evolution towards a humane socio-political system is intrinsically linked to our shared responsibility toward actualizing climate justice built on socialist principles. For that, creation of more leftist political art is the need of the hour,” said Areej Hussain, a member of Laal Hartaal.

Ismat concluded, “We have to take feminism to the masses as a ‘political agenda’, and stand against all the oppressive structures that subjugate the masses. All feminist, nationalist, socialist, and secular democratic forces must form unity to overthrow the structures of oppression and build an egalitarian state and society. Nobody’s free until all women are free!”

Issued by Media Team:

Shanel Khaliq, Ayza Shahbaz, Areeba Fatima