LAHORE, March 3: President of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Aitzaz Ahsan has said he will file an FIR against President Pervez Musharraf and officials concerned for ‘illegally confining’ deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and eight other Supreme Court judges.

Addressing a press conference at his residence on Monday, Mr Ahsan said the Senate had admitted that the deposed chief justice was being detained contrary to previous government claims that he was a ‘free man’.

He said he would go to Islamabad after visiting Karachi and Sukkur to lodge the FIR against all people responsible, including the Inspector-General of Police, the chief commissioner of Islamabad, the home secretary, the interior minister, former prime minister Shaukat Aziz, caretaker prime minister Mohammadmian Soomro and President Musharraf.

He said the FIR would be lodged under sections 344, 348, 506 and other relevant laws. “We know Gen (retd) Musharraf has immunity till he purports to hold the office of the president. But we will not let him go scot-free,” he said.

Mr Ahsan said Justice Sardar Raza Khan, Justice Shakirullah Jan, Jutice Khalilur Rehman Ramday, Justice Falak Sher and Justice Raja Fayyaz were still confined and had not been allowed to go to offer Eid prayers.

The lawyers would also file civil suits for the recovery of damages worth billions of rupees, which would be recovered from their personal properties, he said.

Terming the act of detaining of more than 60 judges shameful, he said it had no parallel in history.

Dispelling the perception that the lawyers’ long march had been cancelled, he said if it was necessary, not only the deposed judges but retired judges, including former chief justice Saeeduz Zaman Siddiqui, Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid, Justice Fakharuddin G. Ibrahim, Justice Mahmood Qazi, Justice Khalilur Rehman Khan, Justice Rafique Tarar, Justice Zia Mahmood Mirza, Justice Karamat Nazir Bhandari and Justice A.S. Salam, would participate in the long march.

“Earlier, we had just one judge (on our side) … but this time around we have 45 judges and thousands of lawyers to march on to Islamabad. If they restrained one lawyer, thousands would be ready to replace him,” he said.

According to him, the arrests would not matter because ordinary people would also support the lawyers.

He said lawyers would give a fresh protest date if the judges who could be restored continued to suffer. He, however, said the lawyers did not want any confrontation with parliament because they believed in strong institutions.

He said he would make it clear to parliamentarians that lawyers wanted to become their strength but “we will oppose anyone who would not restore the judges”.

He said the lawyers would observe a ‘black flag day’ from March 9. Mr Aitzaz said arrangements were being made so that the deposed chief justice could address all bar associations simultaneously on March 10 and on March 13, lawyers would boycott judges who took oath under the Provisional Constitution Order and start staging rallies across the country.

Stressing the need for independent judiciary and media, he said that the country could never be truly free without it, adding that lawyers would wage a tough war against the Pemra Ordinance if the government tried to muzzle the media.

Mr Ahsan said he was aware that past parliaments had validated measures taken by dictators and it would still be in its right if it validated the Nov 3 emergency order, which in essence was martial law.

When asked if Gen (retd) Musharraf could be tried under Article 6 of the Constitution, he said he could be impeached for abrogating the constitution and illegally removing and detaining over 60 judges. About the fate of the PCO judges, Mr Ahsan said the Nov 3 order of the seven-member Supreme Court bench was legal, constitutional and binding.

He said that anybody who took oath under the PCO was not a judge because the SC bench had declared it illegal, unconstitutional and unlawful.

When asked why had the bar failed to completely boycott the PCO judges, he said the lawyers were appearing before them in public interest, adding that they had faced severe economic hardships to keep their movement alive. When asked how would he respond to political parties ‘willing to work with Gen (retd) Musharraf’, Mr Ahsan said these parties knew very well that independence of parliament could not be achieved without an independent judiciary.

He said: “If they tried to go ahead and severed one arm, they would be making a big mistake because you just cannot build a parliament on the debris of judicial structure.” He said the SCBA was ready to play a role for bringing about a new social contract to ensure an independent judiciary and a parliament in total control of the state affairs.

He said the Supreme Court judges, who were under an illegal oath, could not validate the Nov 3 emergency because they themselves had benefited from the step. “Nobody could be a judge of his own cause,” he said.

He said the fate of the judges, who took oath under the PCO and under the amended constitution, would be decided by the restored Supreme Court in accordance with principles laid down in the famous judges’ case.

Waseem Shamsi adds from Sukkur: Aitzaz Ahsan has asked parliamentarians to immediately reinstate ‘bold and honest’ judges otherwise the lawyers would take action.

He said that the lawyers were giving “time to parliament to take positive steps for safeguarding the judiciary”.

Mr Ahsan, who arrived here on Monday evening from Lahore, was addressing a press conference at a local hotel.

He said there was no need of for a two-third majority in parliament for a constitutional amendment to reinstate the deposed judges, because “this can be done by merely an executive order”.