In a third consecutive year, political circles have included social movements in their narrative, almost keeping up with the voters over selective issues. The recent public debate is over the upcoming Aurat March, which faced a lot of backlash from religious parties, particularly in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) assembly last year.

The latest in this series is the statement by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman, implying that his supporters can physically stop women from coming out and protesting for their rights.

Alongside this is the legal challenge. Agitated by the witty slogans raised by these women on previous marches - based on their Twitter-like catchy retake on their personal issues - many have sought the support of the courts in order to ban the march altogether. There has been strong pushback on both counts. JUI-F’s statement was met with a strong rebuttal from Pakistan Peoples Party’s Sherry Rehman who highlighted how protests and the demands for rights is a very intrinsic quality of democratic nations - a concept these political actors claim to struggle for. Not too long ago the JUI-F took out a march of their own - they should know.

Similarly, the Lahore High Court (LHC) has dismissed any such demand claiming that peaceful protest is a right guaranteed by the state and the Constitution of Pakistan. The court discussed preventing insensitive placards from being raised, however, the execution of this plan might prove be difficult due the highly subjective nature of the placards. Who decides what is offensive?

While reasonable restrictions on the grounds of “public decency” are acceptable, there also needs to be an understanding in established political circles of how youth-led social movements are expressing themselves in this part of the world and around the globe as well - it will put these placards very much in perspective.

The government of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) must facilitate such democratic protests; the current threat can potentially damage female-centric politics in Pakistan for years to come.