ISLAMABAD, Jan 31: The legal community mounted protests and processions in the federal capital, the four provincial capitals and other cities and towns across the country on Thursday to mark the ‘Justice Iftikhar Day’ on a call given by the Sindh High Court Bar Association. The call had been endorsed by the Pakistan Bar Council.
Thousands of lawyers and jurists took part in the day’s events as did the representatives of various civil society groups and political parties. Those who attended the events called for the release of the deposed chief justice of Pakistan, Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, who has been under ‘detention’ since Nov 3.
The protesters also called for the release of Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Ali Ahmed Kurd and Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmood, who have been spearheading the lawyers’ campaign for restoration of the pre-November 3 judiciary.
The lawyers by and large boycotted all court proceedings.
In the federal capital, the Supreme Court building almost remained deserted as very little activity was witnessed. On the premises of the Islamabad District Bar Association an event was organised at which lawyers highlighted the sacrifices rendered by Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.
Later the lawyers tried to march to the deposed chief justice’s residence. However, much like their previous such attempts they had to abort their march near the Balochistan House as a posse of law enforcement personnel had erected barricades there.
The lawyers remained peaceful during the 30 minutes or so that they spent near the Balochistan House. However, they did chant slogans against President Pervez Musharraf and in favour of the 60-odd judges who have been deposed.
In Rawalpindi, the wife of Justice Tariq Mehmood made a speech at the Rawalpindi District Bar Association. She assailed President Musharraf for his tirade against Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry during his recent visit to some European countries, saying the president had tried to malign the chief justice outside the country because he lacked the courage to face the nation.
Later the lawyers formed a procession and went to the Marir chowk (roundabout) via the main Jhelum road. They blocked the chowk and raised slogans against President Musharraf.
Rallies were also organised in Gujjar Khan, Attock, Taxila and Chakwal.
PUNJAB: Thousands of lawyers and members of civil society groups took part in a procession in Lahore — arguably the biggest to be organised anywhere in the country on Thursday.
The main procession was taken out from the premises of the Lahore High Court Bar Association. Hundreds of lawyers from the Aiwan-i-Adl later joined the rally.
Workers of various political parties — including the Tehrik-i-Insaf, Jamaat-i-Islami, Awami National Party and Khaksar Tehrik — were also there as were members of different human rights groups like the Concerned Citizens of Pakistan, Women Action Forum and Pakistan Medical Association.
The protesters then converged on the Punjab Assembly building. Some of them set some PML-Q banners afire. Some prominent lawyers made speeches on the occasion.
Rallies were held in almost all the major cities in the province.
NWFP: In Peshawar, the lawyers held a general body meeting, followed by a demonstration. They later staged a sit-in near the chowk dubbed the “Justice Square”.
The protesting lawyers said they would continue to boycott the courts and hold demonstrations until all their demands were met.
Lawyers boycotted courts in Abbottabad, Dera Ismail Khan, Haripur, Mansehra, Kohat, Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Nowshera, Mardan and Charsadda and instead organised protest rallies and meetings.
SINDH: The lawyers of Karachi took out a rally from the Sindh High Court Bar Association premises to the Karachi Press Club after a general body meeting. The demonstration at the press club was joined by civil society groups.
Addressing the gathering, the former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Munir
A. Malik, announced that the legal fraternity would ‘besiege’ the Parliament House in Islamabad on Feb 19 and would continue its struggle until all the deposed judges were reinstated.
Rallies and meetings were also held in Hyderabad, Khairpur, Sanghar, Shikarpur, Mirpurkhas, Thatta, Dadu, Kotri and Nawabshah.
BALOCHISTAN: A meeting was held in Quetta in the bar room of the district bar association. Speakers lauded the courageous stance of Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.
After the meeting, the protesters took out a procession that passed through Sharea Iqbal, Liaquat bazaar and Prince road. They later staged a sit-in outside the residence of Ali Ahmed Kurd, who has been under detention.
Mr Kurd waved to the protesters from the roof of his house.