Thousands of women and men from different fields of life rallied across the streets in Pakistan’s commercial hub of Karachi on Friday , and later hold a mammoth demonstration outside the historical Frere Hall as part of the “Aurat March” (women’s march) to mark the International Women’s Day. The first Aurat March was held in 2018 in Karachi; in 2019 the rally has been extended to other major cities of Pakistan. Renowned classical dancer and rights activist Sheema Kirmani and other activists lead the Aurat March in Karachi. Due to Pakistan Super League (PSL) cricket matches to be played at National Stadium Karachi from Monday, Karachi Police have issued a traffic plan and diverted traffic on many roads, due which the route of the Aurat March was changed and instead of the planned route, Aurat March crossed Fatima Jinnah Road and reached the historical Frere Hall. Participating women were carrying placards and banner with slogans written on them. Photo Credit: Noreen Zehra On the occasion, journalist, filmmaker and activist Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy termed Aurat March as an important milestone for the independence of the women. “Women need equal rights and right to work and spent life without any fears and this march is an attempt to reclaim the space for women,” said Chinoy. On the other hand, Sindh Inspector General of Police Dr Syed Kaleem Imam on Friday observing the International Women Day said that this day is aimed at to raise greater awareness about the issues of women and highlight their critical role in sustained developmental process. The IGP quoted Quaid-i-Azam that no country could progress without equal participation of women in nation-building. Earlier, to observe the International Women Day a walk/ rally was also taken from Do-Talwar to Clifton Police License Branch, in which police officials, including IGP, Additional IG Karachi, Ladies police, law enforcing agencies and civil society participated. Meanwhile, in Lahore, gender rights activists including women, men and transgender organized a rally titled “Aurat March” that started from Lahore Press Club and culminated at Alhamra Arts Council A large number of women, students, professors, transgender and human rights activists participated in the march that is meant to highlight the women’s struggle in the society. The demonstrators were gathered under the banner of ‘Hum Auratain’ in the march in which the participants emphasised on the women emancipation in society. The march was open to all as women, men, sexual minorities and transgender were present at Alhamra Hall where musical and theatrical performances were also held by the young artists. Leena Ghani, one of the organisers of the march said that their struggle is deeply political but it doesn’t have any connection with any political party or organisation. “It is our second year organising the March and it is undoubtedly a rewarding and wonderful experience,” she said. She was of the view that last year their focus was on equality but they changed the theme this year having focus on Sisterhood and Solidarity. She further added that they are united in their vision despite the fact that they all are from different identities, backgrounds and experiences having diversification but they demand a world without discrimination, division, war, police brutality and enforced disappearances. The demonstrators were carrying placards and banners inscribed with slogans against discrimination and oppression of women. They were also chanting slogans while demanding freedom for women and equality in the society in order to end the patriarchy. Some of the slogans being chanted by the students were very creative indeed that were truly an attraction for all. Zahid Ali, a participant of the march said that we stand arm-in-arm with women resisting economic exploitation at the hands of a patriarchal-capitalist structure as well as women speaking out against violence against them. Several musical and dance performances were also held on the occasion for the amusement of the participants. Sumaira, a young Tabla player, who is the first woman Tabla player of the country, enthralled the audience through her performance. The poems of revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz were also sung on the occasion. ‘Lazim Hein kay hum bhi dekhen gy’ and a musical performance by Meesha Shafi were the hallmark of the march culminated at Alhamra Hall. Another activist Nighat Dad termed the movement as organic while saying that they didn’t get any fund for the March as everyone took part voluntarily. “Our manifesto basically highlights the economic justice, equal pay, it talks about police brutality, the tribal areas and we talk about the women in Balochistan,” she said. Although Nighat Dad was the main organizer of the March, she said that the credit for this successful demonstration goes to all the right activists and women of Lahore. An activist of Progressive Students Collective (PSC) Mohiba Ahmad said that it is a collective fight of women against the oppression as a single woman cannot fight in her individual capacity. “My speech was dedicated to all the oppressed women who were victim of domestic violence and for those who were killed in the name of honor,” she said and lauded all the sexual minorities. We march for our due rights as this society gave us nothing and we were silenced at every moment, she added. Everything in this society for women was expensive. Only death was cheap, she concluded. Skits and plays highlighting the issues of women harassment and demand of gender-equality were staged on the occasion. Azad Fankaar Theatre Group presented a play highlighting the issues of domestic violence, sexual harassment and rape that was highly appreciated by the participants. Noted human rights activists Hina Jillani and Ammar Ali Jan were also present in the March. Published in Daily Times, March 9th 2019.