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Lawyers sign accord to keep march peaceful

June 13, 2008

ISLMABAD, June 12: The government and representatives of the legal community signed a 20-point agreement on Thursday to maintain law and order in the federal capital where lawyers’ long march and protest programme will culminate on Friday. The organisers of the protest march have been told that they will be responsible for any disturbance in the city on the occasion.

“The agreement has been signed with the consent of coalition partners and representatives of lawyers’ community,” Information Minister Sherry Rehman said at a press briefing on Thursday.

The agreement has been signed by Islamabad’s Deputy Commissioner Amir Ali and Rawalpindi Bar Association President Sardar Attaullah and Islamabad Bar Association (IBA) Secretary General Riasat Ali Azad.

The community assured the government that the march would not enter the Constitution Avenue which has been declared ‘red zone’ and will be cordoned off during the protest programme.

“Due to safety of diplomatic enclave and other important buildings, including the Parliament House, the area has been declared red zone and no one will be allowed to enter into it,” the minister said.

“But in case of any violation of the agreement and law and order situation, the responsibility will devolve on the organisers,” she said.

The minister said PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari would provide food to the lawyers while the local administration would provide water and make arrangements for toilets.

She said that the route and final destination of the protesters had been decided.

The government, she said, had accepted the demands of lawyers and would facilitate them in setting up dais at the agreed venue at the parade ground, the area close to the Parliament House.

Giving details about the agreed route of the long march in Islamabad, she said the participants would enter the federal capital between 11am and 2pm on Friday from Faizabad and after going through the Zero Point, Kashmir Highway, Abpara Chowk, Suhrawardy Road and Embassy Road they would reach the parade ground.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani presided over a meeting of a committee formed to finalise security arrangements for the long march and expressed satisfaction over the agreement signed by the two sides.The meeting was attended by Prime Minister’s Adviser on Interior Rehman Malik, Ms Sherry Rehman, Labour Minister Khurshid Shah, Law Minister Farooq Naek and PML-N leaders Ishaq Dar, Ahsan Iqbal and Khawaja Asif.

The information minister said the lawyers’ representatives had assured the government that they would remain peaceful.

The minister said there was no possibility of any PPP leader, including the prime minister, taking part in the lawyers’ programme.

Security departments sealed the Constitution Avenue on Thursday night with large containers on all entry points, but some lawyers who had come from Sialkot to take part in the march, managed to enter the red zone.

However, they were persuaded by security officials to leave the area.

Paramilitary force and police from Punjab have reached Islamabad to assist the local police in maintaining law and order.

About 16 close-circuit cameras have been installed at different places near the venue of the protest meeting with control rooms at the district administration office and the interior ministry.Security departments have also installed more than a dozen security gates to stop suspects from joining the gathering.

Dozens of police pickets have been set up on different roads in the city where vehicles are being searched.

Armed personnel carriers equipped with anti-riot equipments, including tear-gas shells and rubber bullets have been placed to cope with any breakdown in security.