LAHORE, Dec 23: Supreme Court Bar Association president Aitzaz Ahsan whose three-day release order was withdrawn prematurely on Friday morning was “suffering from high fever” after he was made to travel for several hours in an open police van in freezing weather.
Mr Ahsan had been freed on Thursday morning for three days but he was hauled up in the early hours of Friday in Chakri while he was on his way to Islamabad to offer his Eid prayers with deposed chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.
“Our cellphones started ringing when we reached Chakri and several people informed us that he would be arrested again,” said Mr Ahsan’s son Ali Ahsan, who was accompanying his father.
“As soon as we stopped at Chakri restroom (on the Motorway) for a cup of tea, seven or eight men stepped in carrying automatic weapons.” He said three or four men were in police uniform while the others were in plain clothes.
Mr Ahsan asked them to produce detention orders in writing when they told him to accompany them.
“Instead, they got hold of him and started pushing and dragging him towards a police van. When I protested and sought the orders, one of the men loaded a gun, pointed it towards my chest and told me that he would shoot me,” he said. They pushed Mr Ahsan into the van and drove him to a police station. From there he was driven for seven hours and was again detained.
A statement issued said: “Upon his arrest Aitzaz was thrown into the back of an open police van and driven around Chakri and Chakwal for four hours during the night. He was finally brought back to Lahore on the Eid morning.
“Besides high fever, Mr Aitzaz has a pain in his back and neck. His fever is said to have been caused by the sub-zero chill and wind (he) suffered for several hours while being made to travel in an open vehicle,” the statement concluded.
Bushra Aitzaz said her husband was not allowed to offer Eid prayers and visit the graves of his elders.
Masood Haider adds from New York: Meanwhile, Mr Ahsan urged the people in the US to ask why does Musharraf have so little respect for civil society — and why does he essentially have the backing of American officials?
In an op-ed article, “Pakistan Tyranny Continues” in the New York Times, Mr Ahsan said that “the parliamentary elections scheduled for Jan 8 have already been rigged ... the election commission and the caretaker cabinet are overtly partisan. The judiciary is entirely hand-picked. State resources are being spent on preselected candidates.”
He said: “Pakistan’s Supreme Court Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and his family have been detained in their house, barricaded in with barbed wire and surrounded by police officers in riot gear since Nov 3. Phone lines have been cut and jammers have been installed all around the house to disable cellphones. And the United States doesn’t seem to care about any of that.”
“The chief justice is not the only person who has been detained. All of his colleagues who, having sworn to protect, uphold and defend the Constitution, refused to take a new oath prescribed by President Pervez Musharraf as chief of the army remain confined to their homes with their family members. The chief justice’s lawyers are also in detention, initially in such mediaeval conditions that two of them were hospitalised, one with renal failure.”
He also said “as the chief justice’s lead counsel, I, too, was held without charge — first in solitary confinement for three weeks and subsequently under house arrest. Last Thursday morning, I was released to celebrate the Eid holidays. But that evening, driving to Islamabad to say prayers at Faisal Mosque, my family and I were surrounded at a rest stop by policemen ... and I was dragged off and thrown into the back of a police van. After a long and harrowing drive along back roads, I was returned home and to house arrest.”