Monday, November 05, 2007

Go Musharraf Go - Pakistani Lawyers Galvanized Again

Picture: DT, November 6, 2007

Lawyers’ protests brutally crushed
Demonstrators baton-charged, teargassed; hundreds arrested; LHC turns into battlefield
By Wajih Ahmad Sheikh & Salman Aslam: The News, November 6, 2007

LAHORE: The police used brute force on Monday to crush the lawyers’ countrywide protests against the imposition of emergency.

In Lahore, the premises of the High Court became a battlefield when the police resorted to baton-charge and teargasing to disperse angry lawyers who wanted to take out a protest rally against the imposition of emergency.

Police also arrested 600 lawyers at The Mall after beating them up with fists and kicks injuring several. Some police officers also sustained injuries during skirmishes with the lawyers. Monday was declared as a black day and the lawyers on the call of the National Action Committee observed complete boycott and held protest meetings against emergency and the PCO.

The battle started at around 11:50am when the lawyers, after attending the general house meeting of the LHCBA, decided to throng The Mall but the police, already deployed at the premises, resisted.

First, police warned the lawyers not to proceed against the violation of section 144. But the charged lawyers, chanting anti-government slogans, continued marching towards the main gate of the LHC while pushing back the police.

Resultantly, the police started baton-charging the lawyers who retaliated by pelting them with stones. Some angry lawyers also stoned courtrooms of those judges who had taken oath under the PCO, and chanted slogans against the Lahore High Court chief justice.

Realising that the situation was getting out of control, the police started firing teargas forcing the lawyers to go back to the bar room. The police force, chasing the lawyers, broke into Kiyani Hall of the LHCBA and fired teargas shells. Then the police started arresting the lawyers after beating them, including women, indiscriminately.

LHCBA Vice-President Firdous Butt, Finance Secretary Ruby Hayat Awan, Pakistan Bar Council member Ramzan Chaudhry, SCBA media advisor Azhar Siddiq, former president LHCBA Fakharunnisa Khokhar, Manzoor Malik, Abdul Latif Hanjra, Lahore Bar Association secretary Shamim-ur-Rehman, members Punjab Bar Council Yasin Sohal and Shahid Bilal were among the arrested lawyers, while the main leadership of the lawyers was already behind bars.

All the arrested lawyers have been dispatched to different police stations. Later, the police removed the barracks installed at The Mall, clearing roads for traffic which had been jammed for two hours.

The LBA lawyers could not take out a rally as the police deployed outside the Aiwan-e-Adal did not let them come out. The general house meeting of the LBA was also not held, as all the elected leaders had been arrested on Sunday night.

The police deployment was unprecedented at The Mall and around the Lahore High Court, as around 2500 cops in uniform and civvies including eight SPs, 36 SPOs, 74 inspectors and 436 upper subordinates were deployed.

Talking to The News, Lahore SSP Operations Aftab Ahmad Cheema said no one would be allowed to take the law into their hands. “Ban under Section 144 had been imposed on holding protest demonstrations at The Mall and the lawyers in defiance of the ban attempted to hold a demonstration,” he added.

Responding to a query, he said police deployment at the LHC and the Awan-e-Adal was meant to protect the honourable judges. He said they had evolved a new strategy as policemen had strictly been prohibited from resorting to baton-charge at the lawyers, adding that he had been requesting the lawyers on megaphone not to take law into their hands, but they turned a deaf ear and offered resistance by hurling bricks at the police, injuring 45 men of his force. He said police would lodge cases against lawyers under Sections 427/188, 324/353, 186/148 of the PPC and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

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