KARACHI, Feb 21: Police fired teargas shells on and used batons against agitating lawyers, injuring five of them, and arrested 15 others on Thursday.
The legal fraternity, protesting against the ouster of judges, took out a rally from the Karachi Bar Association office after a general-body meeting and staged a sit-in on M.A. Jinnah Road. However, heavy contingents of police, which had besieged the area since morning, stopped the rally from proceeding further.
When the lawyers tried to push their way ahead, police baton-charged them and used teargas to disperse the rally. Police also rounded up 15 of the protesting lawyers, bundled them into waiting mobiles and drove them to the Risala police station.
The skirmishes, however, continued for over half an hour. Police did not allow ambulances to enter the KBA office to shift the injured to hospitals. The lawyers threw stones at police and raised anti-Musharraf and anti-government slogans.
On the directions of the district and sessions judge, South, judicial magistrate Zeeshan Akthar intervened in the matter and asked the police to remain calm and allow the ambulances to shift the injured to hospitals. He also met the office-bearers of the Karachi Bar Association, who demanded the immediate release of their colleagues. However, the police continued the siege of the area till the evening and three lawyers were arrested when they were carrying their colleagues to hospital.
The injured were taken to the Civil Hospital, where a number of lawyers had gathered and chanted anti-government slogans. Pervez Ashraf Butt, Ghulam Nabi Magsi and Ahsan were among the injured.
A teargas shell landed near the police lockup in the City Courts during the clashes and created panic among the undertrial prisoners.
Riaz Afandi, Irfan Ahmed, Naeem Qureshi Waheed Baloch, Munsif Jan, Fateh Ali Shah, Saeed Qureshi, Tahir Tanoli, Ata Mohammad, Jahangir, Anwar Yousufzai and Khalid Tanoli were among those arrested by police. Later, they were released on the directions of the district and sessions judge, South.
The Karachi Bar Association office-bearers condemned the police action against the lawyers’ rally and said a future strategy in this regard would be finalised at the general-body meeting to be held on Saturday. They vowed to continue the struggle despite odds.
Earlier speaking at a general-body meeting of the Karachi Bar Association held in the Shuhada-i-Punjab Hall of the City Courts, the KBA president said President Musharraf was a “security risk” for the country and urged him to step down.
He asked the political parties which succeeded in the Feb 18 election to help restore the judiciary to its Nov 3 position. “Pervez Musharraf himself has said that he will step down if the people of the country want him to. Now the majority of the people have rejected the king’s party and elected representatives of the anti-Musharraf parties in the Feb 18 general election, it clearly showed that the people wanted him to quit. Therefore, it is President Musharraf’s moral responsibility to give up his post,” he added.
It was announced at the meeting that the lawyers along with 16 deposed judges would leave for Hyderabad in a ‘judicial bus’ from the Sindh High Court on Saturday to attend a meeting of the Hyderabad Bar Association.
Legal proceedings remained suspended at the City Courts as the lawyers stayed away from the court proceedings in response to a strike call given by the Pakistan Bar Council to protest against the ousting of judges, detention of top leaders of the PBC, amendments made to the constitution and to the Legal Practitioners and Bar Council Act, 1973 and detention of deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.
About 223 undertrial prisoners were brought to the City Courts from different prisons of the city, but they were taken back to their respective prisons without being produced in court due to the lawyers’ strike. However, the judges remained in their chambers. All the shops, stamp vendors stalls and canteens situated on the City Courts premises remained closed.
Meanwhile, a partial boycott of court proceedings was observed at the District Courts, Malir.