By Asif Shahzad
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Islamists pelted campaigners with stones, shoes and sticks as they marched through Pakistan’s capital on Sunday to mark International Women’s Day.
Women and men joined the event in Islamabad, one of several rallies across the country, for what is known in Pakistan as the Aurat March, using the Urdu word for women.
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 Reuters 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 organizers said some of those marching hit by stones and bricks were injured.
One of the organizers 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, organizers said they faced a backlash including murder and rape threats.
Ahead of this year’s event, organizers say posters and murals were vandalized, 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 organizations.
The marchers at some of these other events carried colorful placards and banners, chanted slogans to challenge patriarchy and misogyny in the mainly Muslim country where extremists see such movements a threat to the core values of society.
“You know, whatever they do, they can’t scare us. Their scare tactics aren’t going to work on us,” Anam Rathore, one of the organizers of the marches, told Reuters.
Earlier this month, a court had given permission for the country-wide event on condition that organizers and participants adhered to “decency and moral values”.
(Writing by Asif Shahzad; Additional Reporting by Mubasher Bukhari in Lahore and Syed Raza Hasan in Karachi; Editing by Alison Williams/Kevin Liffey/Jane Merriman)