Police on Monday fired tear gas and water cannons on protesting lawyers gathered at the Lahore High Court (LHC), where contempt of court proceedings were underway against Sher Zaman Qureshi, the president of the Lahore High Court Bar Association’s (LHCBA) Multan chapter.
A large number of lawyers resorted to violence after the court issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Qureshi. The court also issued directions for the suspension of his licence, along with the licence issued to lawyer Syed Qaiser Abbas Kazmi.
Qureshi, along with some lawyers, had misbehaved with Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan in Multan during court proceedings last month.
LHC Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah had taken strong notice of the lawyers’ misbehaviour and constituted a committee to probe the matter.
Qureshi's supporters lawyers on Monday threw stones at law enforcement personnel, dislodged an iron-grill gate inside the court and chanted slogans. Their attempt to storm the CJ block was thwarted after anti-riot police used tear gas and water cannons to force them out of the court premises.
The lawyers then continued their protest on Mall Road, which was subsequently blocked for traffic.
The lawyers' clash with law enforcement officials also disrupted business activities in the area. Nearby shops were closed and the State Bank of Pakistan building was temporarily sealed.
Police stopped using tear gas and water cannons after the lawyers gave assurances that they would continue their protest peacefully.
According to rescue sources, 10 people, including seven lawyers, sustained injuries during the clash. They were taken to Lahore's Mayo Hospital.
'Protest to continue until CJ is replaced'
LHCBA President Zulfiqar Chaudhry meanwhile announced that lawyers would observe a strike across Punjab on Tuesday (tomorrow).
He warned that by acting against lawyers, the authorities were taking the situation to a point where "things would no longer be in their control".
The protesting lawyers told DawnNews that they would hold a protest sit-in outside the court overnight and remain there until the LHC chief justice is replaced.
On the other hand, Punjab government spokesman Malik Ahmed Khan, while talking to DawnNews, said provincial authorities "will not let the lawyers hold the judges hostage in any condition".
He said he had personally requested the LHCBA president to prevent lawyers from using violent means of protest "for political gains".
On July 24, lawyers Qureshi and Kazmi, along with others, had misbehaved with Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan and obstructed judicial proceedings of his court in Multan bench. Afterwards, they had vandalised and ransacked the court premises and ripped off the name plate of the judge.
Subsequently, the LHC chief justice withdrew judges from the Multan bench in an exercise of his constitutional powers, but made available the principal seat of the LHC, Lahore, and the Bahawalpur bench for the dispensation of justice.
Though the Multan bench was restored after a few days, lawyers have continued their strike.
During one of the hearings this month, a group of lawyers had barged into LHC Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah’s courtroom, where a bench was overseeing contempt of court proceedings, and created a hostile situation.
While Kazmi had joined the contempt proceedings before the larger bench at an initial stage, Qureshi had not complied with the contempt notice.