Islamabad: Hundreds of women in various cities of Pakistan on Sunday participated in protests to mark the International Women's Day and demanded equal rights and better opportunities for them in the country. The protests, which were held under the banner of 'Aurat March', was also attended by children, men and transgenders in various cities, including Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Multan and Queta. In Karachi, protests were held outside the Frere Hall, the Karachi Press Club and the Teen Talwar. Similar protests were also organised in other cities of Sindh province, including Khairpur, Shikarpur, Sukkur and Nangarparkar.
In Lahore, the protesters carrying placards gathered at the Lahore Press Club and marched through Egerton Road to culminate at Aiwan-e-Iqbal. The marchers chanted slogan for equal rights and freedom of women. In capital Islamabad, a big gathering of women was held outside the National Press Club where women activists and their supporters chanted slogans against the harsh restrictions against women in the Pakistani society.
Separately, female members of the political group Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) held a march in Islamabad.
JI chief Sirajul Haq addressed the gathering at China Chowk. Women students of Jamia Hafsa, which is linked with Lal Masjid also took out a rally in Islamabad.
President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan in their separate messages voiced support for right of women. Khan said that observing International Women's Day is a 'reiteration of our commitment to undertake every possible effort to ensure equal rights and opportunities to our women'.
'It is indeed encouraging to see that our women are proving their mettle in every walk of life and achieving excellence in their respective fields at national and international level,” he said
Islamists hurl stones and shoes
Islamists pelted women campaigners with stones, shoes and sticks as they marched through Pakistan's capital. Women and men joined the event in Islamabad. Hundreds of men and women from the Red Mosque brigade, consisting of several local militant groups, and a Taliban allied religious party staged a rival rally just across from the women's march venue, District Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat said.
Police official Mazhar Niazi said the officers blocked the Islamists as they tried to break through a cordon to attack the marchers. A witness and Niazi said the Islamists threw stones, bricks, sticks and shoes at the marchers. Niazi said no one was injured.
He said a criminal case would be registered against the Islamists for violating the law and attempting to attack the women's march. The event organisers said some of those marching hit by stones and bricks were injured.
One of the organisers Ammar Rashid posted a photo on Twitter of a secular woman leader Ismat Shahjahan with a head injury. Police said they were investigating the claim.
There has been an uproar in conservative circles over slogans used at the past two such events, including "My body, my choice", "My body is not your battleground" and "Stop being menstrual phobic".
Following last year's event, organisers said they faced a backlash including murder and rape threats.
Ahead of this year's event, organisers say posters and murals were vandalised, including one by the Islamists from the Red Mosque.
Marches in other cities across Pakistan were held peacefully amid tight security with a large participation from students, civil rights groups and other women's organisations.