ISLAMABAD, June 9: Lawyers who had assembled here from all over the country to hold a convention on the LFO were on Monday barred by police from entering the premises of the Supreme Court and forced to hold their gathering on the road outside.

Lawyers’ representatives, led by Hamid Khan, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, and Mian Abbas, vice-chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council, were not allowed to go beyond the Blue Area on Quaid Avenue, as thousands of policemen, in full anti-riot gear, determinedly blocked them at what is called Parade Chowk.

Numbering about 300, the lawyers, including senior advocates of the Supreme Court, retired high court judges, and some lawyers-turned-legislators, attended the road-side convention and vowed to continue their struggle for the revival of the 1973 constitution as it was before October 12, 1999.

The lawyers chanted slogans “No to LFO, Go Musharraf Go”, and “Go Riaz Go”. They also burnt copies of the LFO, photographs of Chief Justice Sheikh Riaz Ahmad, and the Supreme Court Registrar’s order in which he told them that they would not be permitted to use SC premises for holding their convention.

In an unusual display of the states’ coercive apparatus, all routes leading to the Supreme Court on Constitution Avenue were barricaded and very few persons were allowed to go beyond Radio Pakistan in the east, the PTV station in the west and from Parade Chowk in the north.

Even the journalists who daily visit the Supreme Court for coverage were not allowed inside till 3.30pm. Such security arrangements were only seen in the past when opposition parties had given calls for a long march on Islamabad.

Those who addressed the protesting lawyers included Mr Hamid Khan, Mian Abbas, Hafiz Abdur Rehman Ansari, president of the Lahore High Court Bar Association, Munir Malik, president of the Sindh High Court Bar Association, Wakeel Zaman Khattak, president of the Peshawar High Court Bar Association, Mohsin Javed, president of the Balochistan High Court Bar Association, Kamran Mustafa of the Balochistan Bar Council, Umer Hayat Sindu of the Lahore Bar Association, Senator Latif Khosa, and Hafiz Hussain Ahmad of the MMA.

The bar leaders in their speeches said the government was trying to mislead the people by using the official media to suggest that lawyers were divided on the LFO issue.

They said that even after using all its machinery, the government could manage to get an invitation from only one district bar association out of 100 such associations. They said all lawyers’ representatives were unanimous on the issue of the LFO, and extension in the retirement age of the superior court judges.

Addressing the lawyers, who had braved the scorching sun of June, the bar leaders said that they would continue their struggle for the revival of the 1973 Constitution as it was on October 12, 1999.

They said that no amendment in the Constitution was possible through LFO, and it needed parliament’s approval. They said that if the LFO was accepted it would subvert the Constitution, undermine the federal parliamentary democracy by conferring discretionary powers to dissolve national and provincial assemblies, impose an un-elected body like the NSC and deprive the judiciary of its independence.

The lawyers rejected what they called the “farcical referendum” of April 30, 2002, and said Gen Musharraf was not an elected president as he claimed, and election of the president was due under the mechanism provided in the Constitution.

They said that enhancing the retirement age of judges was a blatant violation of the principle of the independence of the judiciary. They announced that they would issue a white paper on the role of Pakistan’s judiciary on June 28 in Islamabad, and would announce a date for a similar convention in Quetta.

Meanwhile, a press note issued by the registrar of the Supreme Court said that the lawyers convention could not take place on the court premises and the Supreme Court continued functioning smoothly.

It said: “In pursuance of the orders of the Supreme Court administration, security arrangements were made by the police in and around the Supreme Court building to obstruct the holding of All Pakistan Lawyers convention proposed to be held in the Supreme Court premises. Only person concerned with the hearing of their cases were allowed to enter the building and no untoward incident took place in the court building. The Lawyers Convention could not take place in Court premises. The Supreme Court functioned in five benches as per routine and disposed of 17 cases.”

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