ISLAMABAD, Dec 23: For the deposed judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and their chief, Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, it was an Eidul Azha like none in the lives — locked up inside their houses with their families.
When they came out of their houses on Friday morning to go to Eid prayers, Justices Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Nasirul Mulk, Sardar Raza Khan, Shakirullah Jan and Chaudhry Ejaz found the gates locked, sources close to the judges told Dawn.
Even their children and servants were not allowed to leave for the prayers by the police force which has kept them isolated in the Judicial Colony since November 3, when emergency and a Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) were proclaimed.
Arsalan, the elder son of the deposed chief justice, was manhandled when he insisted on going out for the prayers.
This treatment was meted out to the judges and their families even though security officials had informed them overnight that could offer prayers at Faisal Mosque after a statement by the interior ministry that the judges would be free to move during the three-day Eid holidays, the sources said.
Dozens of lawyers and representatives of civil society who had gathered at the police barricade, set up near Balochistan House, to receive the judges and accompany them to the mosque were infuriated when they did not arrive there.
Anti-riot police present behind the barricade, reinforced by a barbed wire, blocked their way when they tried to proceed to the residences of the besieged judges.
They raised pro-judges and anti-government slogans and decided to offer their Eid prayer at the very site under the gaze of the anti-riot police.
Even Justice (retired) Qazi Mohammad Farooq, the Chief Election Commissioner, was not allowed to visit his brother judges though he lives in the same enclave. Worse, he had to argue with the police to enter the enclave on returning from offering Eid prayers in Rawalpindi.
“How can he conduct free and fair elections when his authority to enter his own house is being challenged by the government and personnel of law enforcement agencies,” commented one among the lawyers at the barricade.
Retired Judge Rana Bhagwandas had to celebrate his religious festival of Diwali in similar circumstances on November 10.
Meanwhile Aitzaz Ahsan, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, and Justice (retired) Tariq Mehmud active in the lawyers’ movement, who were freed of house arrest for three days to celebrate Eid were arrested at night after the very first day.
Our Attock correspondent adds: The deposed chief justice, meanwhile, conveyed Eid greeting to the lawyers fraternity and civil society activists of Attock, who specially visited his residence in the federal capital on Friday, but were not allowed by the law enforcing agencies to meet him.
A local senior lawyer and member Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), Advocate Sheikh Ahsanuddin, said that a special Eid message was conveyed by the deposed CJ to him by telephone on Sunday.
Mr Ahsan quoted the deposed CJ as saying that he and other fellow judges had decided all the cases purely on merit to provide relief to the masses. Justice Iftikhar said that the morale of all the judges, who did not take oath under the PCO, was high and they were not worried about any of their past decisions, Advocate Ahsan said.
Mr Ahsan said that deposed chief justice expressed concern over keeping him away from the lawyers, civil society members and other well wishers on the occasion of Eidul Azha, which was condemnable, unethical and worst violation of basic human rights.
“However, I am thankful to everyone, who arrived from different parts of the country at his residence to share their sympathies with him on Eid day,” Mr Iftikhar said.
He also thanked the people and lawyers for supporting him and other judges against their forced removal and the backing he received during the judicial crisis. However, Justice Iftikhar urged the lawyers and civil society activists to speed up their struggle, Mr Ahsan said.
Sheikh Ahsan said that the deposed CJ was very much worried about the health of former SCBA president Munir A Malik, who fell seriously ill during his detention. He also condemned the re-arrest of SCBA President Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan and Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmood.
Sh Ahsan said he assured the deposed CJ that like other parts of the country, lawyers of Attock district will continue their protest till his and other judge’s reinstatement.
Online adds: President Pervez Musharraf on Friday offered Eid prayers at Faisal mosque where the congregation included members of caretaker cabinet, former parliamentarians, civil servants and hundreds of people belonging to all walks of life.
The president prayed to Allah Almighty to help the country in meeting the challenges, particularly the threats from extremism and terrorism. He sought Allah’s blessings for bringing unity and solidarity to the nation.