LAHORE, May 5: Mass arrests, road blockades and baton-charges and teargas shelling by police failed to stop lawyers, political activists and the general public from welcoming Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry in various cities during his journey in a motorcade to Lahore from Islamabad on Saturday at the invitation of the Lahore High Court Bar Association.
Police had first stopped the CJ’s motorcade of over 2,000 vehicles at the Gujranwala bypass with lawyers seeking to pass through the city and police asking them to bypass the town. After arguments lasting half an hour, lawyers started pelting policemen with stone at the main entrance and forced their way into the city where a large number of people were waiting for the chief justice.
A similar situation had earlier been witnessed at Wazirabad where police had to retreat after lawyers and political activists resorted to stone-throwing to break the blockade.
The CJ’s motorcade, which covered 240km up to Gujranwala in 14 hours, was welcomed warmly by large numbers of people at Gujjar Khan, Jhelum, Sarai Alamgir, Gujrat and Wazirabad.
The response was unprecedented considering that a large police force had been deployed on the GT Road and link roads. They had erected barricades at various points. There were reports of police demolishing opposition camps and blocking convoys of lawyers and political workers in different cities who either wanted to come to the GT Road or the venue of the LHCBA reception in Lahore.
In Mandi Bahauddin, police opened fire on a car carrying PPP activists when it did not stop at a picket. Three of the car occupants suffered injuries. They were admitted to the Gujranwala DHQ Hospital.
In Jhelum, police resorted to firing in the air and teargas shelling to disperse political workers and lawyers just before the arrival of the CJ’s motorcade.
Earlier, the CJ’s motorcade had to halt at Swan bridge in Rawalpindi where a gas pipeline had caught fire. Two official vehicles with remote control jammers accompanied the CJ’s motorcade. The vehicles were provided by the government which had earlier asked the CJ not to travel by road because of risks of suicide attack.
In Gujrat, personnel of law-enforcement agencies removed banners and baton-charged and harassed lawyers, political activists, traders and even newspaper hawkers.
The arrest of political leaders and workers, which began two days ago, continued till Saturday morning in Gujrat, Gujranwala, Kasur, etc.
Police forcibly closed all shops and restaurants on GT Road from Jhelum bridge to Chenab bridge. They also harassed traders and beat them up at some places.
ADDRESS: Speaking to the Gujrat Bar briefly, Chief Justice Iftikhar asked the lawyers to remain united for the rule of law in the country.
“When you have taken it upon yourself to ensure the supremacy of the Constitution and rule of law in the country, then you should remain steadfast to fulfil this responsibility," he told the gathering.
Earlier, the CJ’s motorcade left Islamabad for Lahore at 8am.