LAHORE, April 20: Lawyers’ representatives from across the country marched on Shahrah-i-Quaid from one gate of the Lahore High Court to another on Saturday afternoon to register their protest against the presidential referendum.
About 200 lawyers holding banners came out of the LHC building on the GPO Chowk. They were accosted and later surrounded by riot police outside the gate. They continued their march despite police warnings but decided to return to the high court from the judges gate when police contingent barricaded itself at the Cathedral Chowk.
The demonstrators raised slogans against the referendum, military rule, President Pervez Musharraf and the federal and provincial law ministers Dr Khalid Ranjah and Rana Ijaz Ahmed Khan and in favour of Justice Tariq Mahmood (retired) of the Balochistan High Court.
The processionists included Pakistan Bar Council Vice-Chairman Hadi Shakeel Ahmed; Vice-President MA Zafar and Secretary Anwar Hameed Sahibzada; Supreme Court Bar Association President Hamid Khan; PBC members Hafiz Abdur Rehman Ansari, Abdul Haleem Pirzada, Rasheed A. Razvi, Muhammad Kazim Khan, Chaudhry Ashraf Wahla, Farooq H. Naik, Latif Khan Khosa, Raja Mahmood Akthar and Mian Abdul Quddus; Lahore High Court Bar Association President Chaudhry Muzammil Khan; Secretary Shahid Mahmood Bhatti and Finance Secretary Tanvir Mahmood Chaudry; Lahore (district) Bar Association President Chaudhry Nisar Ali Kausar; Sindh Bar Council members Mansoor Khwaja, Imdad Awan, Sathi Ishaq and Yasin Azad; Punjab Bar Council Vice-chairman Ramzan Chaudhry and members Pervez Inayat Malik, Chaudhry Ahsan Bhoon; Hakam Qureshi, and Arif Chaudhry and Ali Ahmad Kurd of Balochistan.
PROTEST DAY ON 25TH: The procession followed over three-hour deliberations at the National Lawyers Representative Conference in the LHCBA’s Shuhada-i-Karachi Hall. The conference decided to observe a countrywide protest day on April 25. Rallies and processions would be held and the courts boycotted to condemn the presidential referendum.
Urging the people to boycott the referendum, the conference declared that the exercise cannot be a substitute for presidential election and regardless of the result of the so- called referendum, no legitimacy will be conferred on Gen. Pervez Musharraf to continue in power. The general and his military regime, it said, shall be responsible and accountable for every penny of public money being spent on the ‘bogus public meetings’ being held at various places.
General Musharraf being in the service of Pakistan Army, the conference resolved, is neither qualified to contest the election for president of Pakistan nor can confer upon himself the office of president through any means whatsoever, including referendum. He is, in fact, violating his oath of office under the Constitution as a member of the armed forces. It expressed the opinion that the speech of Gen Musharraf on April 8 and the referendum being held thereafter clearly indicate his ambition to prolong his rule and ‘undo parliamentary democracy in Pakistan’.
The conference said the continuation of military rule in Pakistan is extremely harmful to the unity and solidarity of the country and elections to Parliament and the provincial assemblies should be held forthwith in order to transfer power to the representatives of the people.
It paid rich tributes to Justice Tariq Mahmood (retd) for resigning his office on the principle that the Election Commission had no jurisdiction to hold referendum. His resignation has further eroded the legitimacy and credibility of the process of referendum.
The conference condemned the lawyers who have joined the military government despite collective opinion of the Bar that the government and the referendum called by it are unconstitutional. It condemned police action against journalists at Faisalabad.