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Aurat March: Women rally in Pakistan despite attempts to shut down protest



  • Rallies on International Women’s Day have received fierce backlash since they were embraced four years ago.
  • Women march through streets in a jovial atmosphere, chanting slogans such as “Give respect to women” and “End the patriarchy”.
  • March was guarded by riot police — and greeted by a small band of men chanting “end this obscenity”.

LAHORE: Around 2,000 women rallied Tuesday in the Pakistan city of Lahore despite efforts by authorities to bar the protest and withdraw security for an event frequently the target of violence.

Rallies on International Women’s Day have received fierce backlash since they were embraced four years ago.

In a society where women have been shot, stabbed, stoned, set alight and strangled for damaging family “honour”, critics accuse rights activists of promoting liberal Western values and disrespecting religious and cultural mores.

On Tuesday dozens of events marking International Women’s Day — known as the Aurat March in Pakistan — were held across the country.

Non-violent counter-protests, dubbed “hijab marches”, were also staged by women from conservative religious groups in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad where participants called for the preservation of Islamic values.

In the eastern city of Lahore, city authorities urged organisers to cancel the rally over safety concerns and threatened to not provide security.

Following a legal challenge, the Lahore High Court ruled the event could go ahead and authorities agreed to provide protection.

The women marched through the streets in a jovial atmosphere, chanting slogans such as “Give respect to women” and “End the patriarchy”.

They were guarded by riot police — and greeted by a small band of men chanting “end this obscenity”.

Student Sairah Khan, 23, cited recent high-profile cases of brutal violence against women “without consequences” for her attendance.

In Karachi — Pakistan’s largest city — around 1,000 women gathered in a festival atmosphere with organisers conducting security checks as police stood by idly.

“We have only one slogan: equal wages, protection and peace,” one woman chanted from a stage.

In the capital of Islamabad, around 200 women rallied outside the city’s press club.

“We have come to raise our voices and highlight our issues,” said student Fatima Shahzad.

They were outmatched by more than 400 counter-protesters from religious parties.

But organiser Farzana Bari pledged “we will continue to assert ourselves”.

“These are the women who refused to bow down,” she told AFP.

In 2020, groups of men from a religious party turned up in vans and hurled stones at women as they marched through Islamabad.

Doctored videos and photos of last year’s events were spread online and even appeared on popular television shows falsely accusing women of chanting or carrying blasphemous slogans — an act that carries the death penalty in Pakistan.


Nineth round of political talks between Pakistan and the EU centers on trade and security




In their ninth round of political dialogue, which took place here on Wednesday, Pakistan and the EU discussed all aspects of their bilateral relationship, with a particular emphasis on the Strategic Engagement Plan (SEP), trade and development cooperation, security, climate action, migration, and mobility.

The team from Pakistan was led by Foreign Secretary Muhammad Syrus Sajjad Qazi, while Enrique Mora, Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service, represented the EU.

Significant local and international happenings were also covered.

The two parties expressed satisfaction with the positive direction of the relationship and decided to keep working to expand and deepen bilateral ties between Pakistan and the EU in all areas of shared interest. They will do this by routinely convening institutional mechanism meetings and carrying out follow-up tasks.

The two sides acknowledged the significance of bilateral relations between Pakistan and the EU, concurring that frequent high-level meetings have given the relationship new life and emphasized the need for close communication and collaboration in the face of a geopolitical environment that is changing quickly.

In order to bring about diversification and sustainability in trade ties between Pakistan and the European Union, the Foreign Secretary emphasized the need for deeper collaboration with key stakeholders on both sides, acknowledging GSP Plus as a successful model of trade for development and mutually beneficial cooperation.

The two parties also decided to investigate fresh prospects under the EU’s major initiatives, Horizon Europe and the Global Gateway Strategy.

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In Canada, another member of the PIA crew disappears.




Jibran Baloch, a flight attendant, is the second PIA air hostess to vanish this month; she was scheduled to take a Toronto trip from Karachi and then left the hotel.

Flight 782 failed to arrive for its planned return duty on February 29. Jibran Baloch, a flight attendant, is the second air hostess to go this month.

When staff members searched Jabran Baloch’s room, they discovered that he had fallen. Another missing person from the hotel a few days earlier was a female air hostess. In just a few months, almost 12 air hostesses who were assigned to flights to Toronto had vanished.

A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight hostess is said to have vanished from her job in Canada earlier this month.

When Maryam Raza, who was supposed to be on aircraft PK 782 from Pakistan to Toronto, neglected to show up for work on the return trip, PK 784 from Toronto to Karachi, the event became public knowledge. According to those with knowledge of the situation, after PIA’s hanging uniform was found in her room, a letter with the words “Thank you, PIA” was found next to it.

This is the third instance of PIA flight attendants’slipping’ while on duty that has been documented this year; two of the cases involve women.

The efficacy of these procedures has not increased despite steps taken to prevent similar instances, such as obtaining the passports of flight attendants assigned to Toronto flights.

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China “agrees” to transfer $2 billion in debt to Pakistan.




ISLAMABAD China has “agreed” to roll over a $2 billion loan to Pakistan, according to sources cited by ARY News, which is a big milestone.

Sources inside the ministry of finance claim that the $2 billion loan will be rolled over under the current terms prior to its maturity date.

Less than 2 percent interest will be charged on the $2 billion in Chinese debt that is being deposited, according to sources.

According to reports, the $2 billion debt’s maturity period will conclude on March 23, 2024, and an additional $2 billion will be rolled over for a year.

It is important to note that as of the end of November in FY2023–24, Pakistan’s overall debt load was at an astounding Rs 63,399 trillion.

Over Rs12.430 trillion more was borrowed by the nation during the PDM and caretaker government’s mandate.

With domestic loans totaling Rs40.956 trillion and foreign loans totaling Rs22.434 trillion, Pakistan’s total debt load increased to Rs63.390 trillion.

China postponed paying Pakistan’s $2 billion debt for two years, starting in July 2023. Regarding the delay in debt recovery, Pakistan received an official letter from China Eximbank.

Pakistan will return the debt in accordance with the terms of the deal with China and was also spared from paying extra interest on the loan. According to further sources, all 31 loan agreements were extended over the original date of July 21, 2023, to June 30, 2025.

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