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ISLAMABAD, June 9: Lawyers launched their long march on Monday, with thousands of them proceeding in caravans from Karachi and Quetta on way to Sukkur from where they will move onwards to Multan and Islamabad.

They left in vehicles, chanting slogans against President Pervez Musharraf.

Deposed chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry will arrive in Multan on Tuesday to receive the marchers from Sindh. He is expected to be accompanied by deposed chief justice of the Sindh High Court Justice Sabihuddin Ahmad. Justice Iftikhar is expected to address an All Pakistan Lawyers Convention hosted by the Multan Bar. On Wednesday evening, he will address a joint meeting of the SCBA, Lahore High Court Bar Association, Lahore Bar Association and Lahore Tax Bar. The lawyers’ slogan for the march is: “We are out to save the country: come join us.”

The lawyers, activists of various political parties and members of the civil society plan to reach Islamabad by Thursday to put pressure on the PPP-led coalition government to reinstate the deposed judges through an executive order, instead of through a constitutional package.

In Lahore, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Aitzaz Ahsan indicated on Monday that the deposed chief justice himself might lead the march from Lahore, but said a decision about this would be taken by Wednesday.

The lawyers, he said, would converge on the Parade Ground near the Parliament House on June 12, adding that the long march was being undertaken with the sole purpose of reinstating the deposed judges and restoration of the judiciary. “This march is not linked with any other issue, except restoration of the pre-emergency judiciary,” Mr Ahsan said.

Meanwhile, all entry points to the Construction Avenue have been blocked with barriers of barbed wires and steel barricades. Only one point is open for traffic near the Parliament Lodges.

According to the lawyers’ plan, caravans from Karachi, Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Sanghar, Nawabshah, Larkana and other parts of Sindh and Balochistan would reach Sukkur on Monday night and leave for Multan on Tuesday.

Some political parties set up camps along the highway to welcome lawyers’ motorcades passing through their towns en route to Sukkur.

Processions from other parts of the country would join them along the way.

Initially, the marchers would reach the Rawalpindi Bar and through the Murree Road move to the Parliament Square. Caravans from Peshawar, Abbottabad, Haripur, Hazara, Mansehra and Azad Kashmir would join the main procession.

Ex-servicemen, retired senior diplomats and former foreign secretaries, civil society representatives and activists of different political parties, including the PML-N, will take part in the march.

In Karachi, deposed SHC chief justice Sabihuddin Ahmad said an independent judiciary was necessary for a democratic society and vowed that after their reinstatement, the judges would dispense speedy justice to the common man.

Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim urged lawyers, members of civil society and political workers to participate in the march in large numbers. He expressed the hope that the struggle would succeed.

President of the Sindh High Court Bar Association Rasheed A. Rizvi vowed that the struggle would continue till all deposed judges were reinstated.

Lawyers belonging to the Karachi, Malir and Sindh High Court Bar Associations marched towards the mausoleum of Quaid-i-Azam, where they were addressed by leaders of the movement and political parties.

In Quetta, the lawyers’ caravan was led by former vice-chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council Ali Ahmed Kurd. It left the provincial capital for Sukkur. The lawyers also boycotted court proceedings and according to a decision of the Balochistan Bar Association, they would continue to boycott the courts till June 15.

Sardar Ismatullah, president of the Lahore High Court Bar Association, told reporters in Islamabad that the long march was not intended to pitch the lawyers against an elected government. He rejected the constitution package and said it had been drafted to protect President Pervez Musharraf and the superior court judges who had taken oath under the Provisional Constitution Order.

Meanwhile, a petition filed in the Supreme Court in requested it to declare all protests, conferences, conventions and seminars for reinstatement of the deposed judges as treason and disobedience and that such activities scandalised and ridiculed the dignity of the apex judiciary. The petition called for action “till the time the deposed judges were re-appointed through the 18th constitution amendment”.