PAKISTAN: 50 injured as lawyers, police clash in Lahore
A countrywide strike was called for Mar. 21 after lawyers, police and journalists were injured during rally for chief justice
Saturday, March 17, 2007
By Asif Shahzad
Lahore --- At least 50 people, 40 of them lawyers, were injured in fierce clashes between police and members of the legal fraternity at the Lahore High Court (LHC) here on Saturday.
The other injured included journalists and policemen.
About 1,500 lawyers had gathered at the Karachi Hall of the LHC to participate in an all-Pakistan lawyers' convention called by the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) to discuss a strategy to handle the issue concerning Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.
The lawyers later divided themselves into groups and attempted to leave the court premises from the four gates of the LHC. Police then entered the court premises, trying to push back the slogan-chanting lawyers.
A car was burnt with either side blaming the incident on the other.
While the lawyers' representatives termed the police action inhuman, police officials said they tried to push back the lawyers and used batons only when they insisted on taking their protest outside the court premises. They said they had to resort to tear-gassing when the lawyers targeted the policemen with bricks.
Activists from opposition parties, mainly women workers of the Pakistan People's Party, joined the protesting lawyers. Raising slogans 'Go Musharraf Go' and 'No Musharraf No', the protesters climbed over the boundary wall of the high court. Bricks flew in both directions and the police used teargas excessively.
A group of lawyers led by former high court bar president
Hafiz Abdur Rehman Ansari managed to climb one of the gates. They were severely thrashed by policemen and some 25 of them were arrested.
At 4pm, Lahore operations police chief SSP Aftab Cheema ordered his force to withdraw from all gates of the building. The lawyers gathered outside the gate that opened on the GPO Chowk. Raising slogans, they started pushing the gate and finally pulled it down.
With the injured lawyers in the lead, the protesters tried to march towards the Regal Chowk, in the direction of the Punjab Assembly, but they were restrained by their senior colleagues. They remained in the vicinity of the high court and kept raising slogans for about half an hour. They left after LHCBA president Ahsan Bhoon requested them through megaphone to return to the court building.
"This is inhuman," said Mr Bhoon. "This is not how you treat people in democratic societies."
He announced countrywide strike of lawyers and protest on March 21.
The police also broke into and ransacked around a dozen lawyers' chambers on the Turner Road, adjacent to the high court for allegedly evicting a group of protesters.
The police said they had been attacked from those offices. The lawyers in response accused the raiding policemen of making off with valuables, including computers, fax machines, telephone sets from their offices.
One lawyer told Dawn that Rs150,000 had been stolen from his chamber.
"Police took away everything from my office. I do not even have my table and chairs. We call it theft," said the lawyer, Mushtaq Qureshi.
The chambers ransacked included the ones which belonged to an LHC judge as well as National Assembly speaker Chaudhry Ameer Hussain, a witness said.
The police also roughed up newsmen and snatched two cameras and a cellphone from them when they tried to snap the ransacked chambers.
Although the snatched items were returned shortly afterwards, the journalists staged a sit-in at the GPO Chowk to protest against the police's high-handedness.
At least 10 lawyers, eight policemen and a cameraman were admitted to different hospitals after they got injured in clashes. Many others were given first aid at the high court's dispensary.
There was no official word on the number of those taken into custody, or on registration of any cases.
Amanullah Kasi adds from Quetta: Lawyers boycotted court proceedings and took out a procession to condemn the government action against Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and police attack on media organisations.
Wearing black arm bands and holding black flags, the participants of the procession set off from the bar room of the district court, passed through Shahra-i-Iqbal and Jinnah road and reached the Quetta Press Club, where a demonstration was held.
The protesters were led by Balochistan High Court Bar Association (BHCBA) president Advocate Hadi Shakeel.
Members of the Quetta Union of Journalists (QUJ) also held a demonstration in front of the press club to criticise government actions against the judiciary and media. They also criticised the government for what they called banning release of official advertisements to the newspapers covering events of public interests.
Members of the Balochistan Press Clubs Association observed a black day in protest against what they called the government policy of suppressing the voice of the print and electronic media.
Self-immolation threatened: Lawyers continued their boycott of courts in Sindh interior. Niaz Ahmed Panhwar, a lawyer from Dadu, has threatened to set himself ablaze on March 23 if the chief justice was not reinstated.
Date Posted: 3/17/2007