Women, trans people, non-binary folk, and men walking side-by-side through the streets, as bystanders look on, people marching in tandem to the beat of a drum and the chant of rhythmic slogans, thought-provoking placards being brandished justice are just some of the things one can expect to witness at the Aurat March.
2022 will mark the fifth year that women in Pakistan have mobilized and marched shoulder-to-shoulder in an attempt to reclaim public spaces and demand the fulfillment of rights that are extended to them by the laws of the state
Asal Insaaf or Reimagining Justice is the theme for this year’s Lahore chapter of the Aurat March. While conversing with Ajwah, who has been volunteering for Aurat March Lahore since 2019, I asked her how the volunteers of had gone about the process of drafting such a detailed manifesto and list of demands:
“The Aurat March manifesto is always a collaborative effort. Since we can’t speak for all communities, we keep contact with them, hold meetings, ask them about their problems, and what a world with justice looks like to them. This time, in the manifesto, we are not only listing problems, but also emphasizing that there can be no resolution of these issues without an attitude of care, without building up communities themselves.”
The most important demand that was put forth is for the government to make efforts to bring about structural changes. The advocates of Aurat March have called for authorities to introduce judicial reforms that will have a lasting impact, rather than implement short-term measures. They claim that changes such as greater representation of women and minorities in the legal system, although a step forward in the right direction, will not be enough to overturn or even counteract the misogyny, classism, and sexism that is prevalent in courts and the patriarchal institutions that have informed the laws and procedures of the judicial system.
As it currently exists, the Pakistani judicial system focuses heavily on punishment as a way to combat the crimes and the injustices that citizens are made to suffer through. The problem with this approach is that the fear of punishment is not a powerful enough deterrent, especially in a system that is fractured and allows criminals to walk free and whose laws leave room for impunity even when it comes to serious crimes. The manifesto states that more resources should be allocated to preventative, rather than punitive, measures.
The manifesto also claims that defamation laws are inherently anti-survivor and are often abused by perpetrators to make themselves appear as victims, which is why they should immediately be decriminalized. Furthermore, laws that exist to protect women, such as the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act 2016, should be implemented properly to ensure the security of women in public and private spaces. Another point that is stressed upon in the manifesto is with regards to the various “safe city projects” that the government has launched and how they are a waste of public funds that could be better distributed towards creating survivor-support mechanisms and welfare programs. There are barely any shelter homes or affordable housing options that the survivors of domestic abuse and gender-based violence can seek refuge in after escaping abusive households and/or marriages.
“In the manifesto we talk about how communities have a collective responsibility, where they can be an important source of intervention. The rehabilitation of prisoners who have served their time is important and our communities can play an active role in that,” said Ajwah when I asked her about the significance of rehabilitation of ex-convicts and why this section was included in the manifesto.
The idea of Aurat March was borne out of the need to propagate feminist ideals in a country that is ruled by out-dated colonial laws and patriarchal structures. Contrary to popular belief, feminism does not aim to promote misandry and disseminate a narrative that women are superior to men. Instead, feminism is a belief system that strives for the equality of all genders and works to liberate them from confining gender roles. Feminism emphasizes the protection of women’s rights, those of the transgender community, and minority groups, in particular, and attempts to elevate their voices, because these are the sections of society that have historically been marginalized and oppressed.
Women marching on the streets and demanding their rights is a sight that attracts controversy and criticism from onlookers and the media each year. While discussing the inevitable backlash that the Aurat March receives each year, Ajwah told me about some of the efforts that volunteers had made this year to curb vitriol from the public and prevent false narratives about the March from making rounds on social, digital, and print media:
“We think that there is definitely going to be backlash and we don’t know what it’s going to look likeâ€¦Almost all of our social media posts try to curb the narrative that women who march are spreading ‘fahaashi’. One of the major ways that we have tried to shift that narrative is through our ‘Collective History’ series through which we have tried to show that this is not a western movement, but something that is borne out of feminist resistance -even though it wasn’t explicitly called ‘feminist resistance’- that existed here in the past alsoâ€¦One of the problems we face each year on the day of the March is with regards to media reporting, so we hand out media passes to ensure that volunteers and participants of the March only speak to media outlets we trust to carry our message forward.”
Even amidst a call to ban the Aurat March and to observe “International Hijab Day” in its place in a letter penned by the Minister for Religious Affairs, Noorul Haq Qadri, to Prime Minister Imran Khan, volunteers, supporters, and prospective attendees of the Aurat March are hopeful that the March will take place peacefully and will prove to be a successful display of women raising their voice against oppression, violence, and injustice.
The purpose of the manifesto for this year’s March is to urge practitioners within the judicial system to focus on not just legal justice, but economic and environmental justice as well. While legal justice refers to effective implementation of the Constitution of Pakistan and enforcement of the Rule of Law, economic justice pertains to the condition wherein measures are taken to eradicate the exploitation of workers, ensure sufficient incomes, and bridge the gender pay gap; and environmental justice relates to the idea that every citizen of the state should have equal access to clean air, water, and unpolluted land for living.
We must realize that there is still so much work to do and a lot to overcome. Only by reimagining the idea of justice as encapsulating the resolution of legal, economic, and environmental crises in Pakistan can we move towards creating a feminist future where every person is granted their due rights and has access to a safe and healthy living.
Ace fashion designer Fahad Hussayn talks to us about his struggles in the industry, his inspirations and more
When did you first realize that you wanted to be a designer?
I always wanted to be an artist, I think for my household, being a designer was far more acceptable than me being an artist. I remember my mom telling me artists die poor. So subconsciously, I was driven to channeling my art toward design and fashion. My mother had a small setup where she made clothes at home. Her studio was home to me after school. Thatâ€™s where I learnt most about fashion. Thatâ€™s where I was inspired and in the process I explored the art that was inside me. In my opinion, any medium that gives us the opportunity to explore our craft is a gift from nature itself.
What was your first job out of college?
My first job was my own brand! I started working on it when I was in college and I launched it after I graduated.
How do you think the fashion industry has changed since youâ€™ve been in it?
The fashion industry has become more chaotic. I also feel like a lot of the love for fashion has faded away. People accept mediocrity in the name of affordability. There are still no laws for the fashion industry and almost no government support. The worst part is the growing culture of the social media mob mentality. For me, fashion was far more respected and profound a decade ago.
Tell us about your muses.
Iâ€™m not a peopleâ€™s person. I very rarely connect with people. It takes time & chemistry for me to connect with someone. I love all the talented women I work with. Theyâ€™re all inspirational in their own way & never cease to amaze me. But Seher & Munazza are super special to me. Seher started off with her career with us. Sheâ€™s a graduate in fashion design from PIFD & it took us very little time to became friends. Munazza is a rare beauty. Sheâ€™s confident, self made, smart and we bonded over our love for black & everything goth. Thereâ€™s nothing more inspirational than watching these strong women be who they are and be so fabulous at it.
What collection of yours is your favorite?
Haha! From my past life, I think Putlighar has to be my favorite. However, my relaunch collection Saobanjara is also extremely close to my heart.
Who is your inspiration?
Some days, nothing at all. Over the years Iâ€™ve learnt how to deconstruct design to just a process. Inspiration requires emotion & feelings and in the real world, some days one just doesnâ€™t have those. I can take a beautiful facade of a building and turn it into a bridal. I can take a picture of people oddly dressed on a road and use it for color palette. Inspiration is a constant process. Other days it has to be mechanically dealt with. If something really moves me, I write about it & take it from there.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I want to take Fahad Hussayn & print museum to a global scale. I want to try new and different things with them with a different set list of audience that we havenâ€™t tried before. Itâ€™s a work in progress.
Your favorite international designer?
McQueen forever! Lately Iâ€™ve been in love with how Daniel Roseberry has resurrected Schiaparelli and combined wearable art with fashion.
What do you like to do on days that youâ€™re off?
I try not to take days off from work. If I do, I spend them cooking and end up with a good meal shared with friends.
If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career what would it be?Â
Donâ€™t fall for everything youâ€™re told; and perhaps Iâ€™d like to teach myself how to handle social anxiety.
Are you still involved in the day to day running of the brand?
Very much â€” every thing requires chaperoning if you want to achieve results.
What do you think are some of the downsides of being in the fashion industry in Pakistan?
Itâ€™s mostly the lack of respect people have for the job, but then thatâ€™s a general issue with most Pakistani people. Theyâ€™re bitter and unappreciative. Itâ€™s difficult to create new things for an industry that doesnâ€™t even uphold niche markets.
In the recent years weâ€™ve seen you come into your own, you express yourself a lot more in terms of your own fashion also. What changed?
I think I evolved out of the public opinion game. My friends, family and my therapist helped me get over it. I think being a figure thatâ€™s constantly watched I fell victim to caring too much about what other people wanted to see me as; so I stopped doing things the way I wanted. I was told to blend in. I used to read really vile comments about to how I was perceived and looked upon for my hair, the kajal I wore in my eyes, my clothes, the shape of my body and my choices. I got thrown into the black hole of the opinion game. Iâ€™m at a point now that I donâ€™t care who thinks what of me. Iâ€™m my own man, loved by my family, my friends & people who appreciate me â€” I donâ€™t care anymore what masses think about my hair length â€” haha!
Photography | Asad Bin Javed
Hair & makeup | Fatima Nasir
We love ourselves a nice slip dress and Minahil is a sight for sore eyes in this one. We love the combination of white boots which adds a little bit of edge to the outfit. Her loose waves and earrings complete the look.
We love Ryanâ€™s smart casual look. She wears a lilac oversized botton-down with cropped pants and heels. She pairs the outfit with chunky gold accessories and wears her hair down. 10/10!
Influencer Salama Hassan looks stunning in this outfit by Zain Hashmi. She pairs the gorgeous outfit with simple makeup and a coral lip. Salama wears her hair straight in a middle part and accessorizes with silver jewelry.
Shanzay Sheikh turns heads in this Agraani outfit. We love the combination of white and blue â€” perfect for summer. We love Shanzay’s traditional take on the outfit. Her big jhumkas and silver bangles complete the look.
Sasha turns heads in these saree pants. We’re obessed with this fusion outfit. The silver mukesh, the beautiful border and those classic flared pants are all to die for. Sasha pairs the look with a silver clutch and simple jewelry. Perfect!
Digitally printed sarees are all the rage right now and Ushna Shah looks striking in this white and blue one. Her low blouse and chunky heels go perfectly with the outfit. We especially love her straight her and simple makeup.
Pakistan’s trending retail brand, Image celebrated the launch of its most coveted Printkari’22 collection via an exclusive influencers meet up at Image’s newly launched outlet in Rawalpindi Saddar
Very Light Purple Furniture exhibited their fabulous furniture in an exclusive event.
Tower 21 is the tallest luxury apartment building with an infinity pool, mechanical parking. The brand hosted a meet and greet to celebrate the pre-launch at Gulberg. The event was managed by ARPR.
Influencer and model Mustafa Yazdani talks about his career, his bucket list and hobbies
Did you always want to be a model?
I modelled a little bit when I was a kid, but it was never something I aspired to. Most of my work has been with Rastah. I also do the art direction for them and my involvement there has sort of been a happy accident.
Whatâ€™s it like being a male model in the Pakistani fashion industry?
I donâ€™t think Iâ€™m a model worth worrying about, nor am I very deeply entrenched in â€˜the sceneâ€™. So I donâ€™t know how much authority I can speak with. However, my personal experience has been overwhelmingly positive and Iâ€™ve gotten to collaborate with brilliant artists and created beautiful things.
Who are your favourite Pakistani designers?
I love what Rastah is doing for Pakistanâ€™s image globally. Iâ€™m obsessed with the craft and playfulness of Kamiar Rokni, and deeply enamored with the sexiness of Muse.
What was your first shoot like?
My first shoots in childhood were with Lajwanti and Leisure Club and I remember feeling like I was better than everyone else at school by virtue of being a model. When I started modeling again, I was lucky because my first shoot was with Natasha Zubair, and she can make anyone look good.
What do you do on days off from work?
Iâ€™m rarely ever off work these days but when I do get time to myself, I try to make time for my friends, read what I can and zone out on my phone for an embarrassing amount of time.
Do you work out?
Iâ€™ve started working out recently, as Iâ€™m starting to age out the whole â€˜waifâ€™ fantasy. Someone once told me that if I wanted to book more Eastern I should think about investing in a barrel chest. I like working out for how it makes me feel, but Iâ€™ve always really liked my body as it is.
What are your hobbies?
I like to paint, read, write, all of that. But anyone who knows me will tell you my greatest hobby is just being pretentious on Instagram.
Name three things on your bucket list.
I want to throw a drink in someoneâ€™s face. Own a pet cow. Write a book.
How important of a role do you think social media plays in a models life in todays world?
Social media is everything. Most people contact me for jobs through Instagram. I took a break from social media for a month or so and lost out on some great work. Inversely, it can also be a bit irritating to feel like youâ€™re being pigeonholed into a certain identity because of your social media presence. Iâ€™d like to try everything.
What advice would you give to young models?
Be pretty, show up on time, and donâ€™t be afraid to embarrass yourself.. oh, also get good at waiting. Being on set is mostly just waiting around.