Pakistani men hold pictures of 14-year-old schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai, who was shot last Tuesday by the Taliban for speaking out in support of education for women, during a candlelight vigil in Karachi. -AP Photo

KARACHI: Thousands of people gathered in Karachi on Sunday for a rally organised by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party in support of Malala Yousufzai, the 14-year-old activist shot by the Taliban.

MQM leader Altaf Hussain called the attack claimed by the Taliban a shameful and cowardly act.

Hussain addressed the audience by telephone from London, where is he in self-imposed exile.

He called the Taliban gunmen who attacked Yousufzai “beasts” and said the shooting was an attack on “the ideology of Pakistan”.

''Malala Yousufzai is a beacon of knowledge. She is the daughter of the nation,'' said Altaf Hussain.

The demonstrators carried the young girl’s picture and banners praising her bravery.

The MQM chief said that if the people of Pakistan want Quaid-e-Azam's Pakistan they will have to stand up to the Taliban.

He said that the Taliban's stance on women's education was against the principles of Islam and the teachings of the Prophet (PBUH).

Altaf Hussain also demanded that the Ulema and religious scholars in the country take a strong stance against the Taliban.

He said that if they did not speak out more fervently against religious extremism, then they will be regarded as having sympathy for terrorists.