Police officers armed with tear gas and clubs attacked thousands of
protesting lawyers in the city of Lahore today and rounded up lawyers in other
cities as the government of the Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez
Musharraf, faced the first signs of concerted resistance to the imposition
of emergency rule on Saturday.
The opposition to emergency rule, which many here are describing as
martial law, was led by lawyers.
Pakistani officials say an estimated 500 opposition figures have been
arrested since emergency rule was imposed at the weekend, although lawyers and
analysts said the figure could be far higher, probably around 2,000.
General Musharraf, in a televised address on Saturday night, cited the
danger to the country posed by extremists and said only emergency rule could
solve it. He suspended the Constitution, fired the judges of the Supreme Court,
closed the transmission of privately owned television news channels and curbed
the broadcasts of international broadcasters. Parliamentary elections scheduled
for next January were delayed for up to a year, officials said.
Today, the Musharraf government deployed police forces and threatened
political opponents with more arrests.
An estimated 150 lawyers were arrested in Lahore after a pitched battle
between the police and lawyers who stood on the roof of the High Court throwing
stones at the officers below. Some of the lawyers had bleeding heads as they
were shoved into police vans, and some fainted in the clouds of tear gas. In
Multan, another city in the province of Punjab, two new judges who had taken the
oath of office under emergency rule Sunday were forced to leave the courtroom by
hundreds of angry lawyers.
"We threatened them, saying: ‘You’ve taken an unconstitutional oath. If
you don’t go we will throw eggs at you.’ They left,” said Riaz Gilani, a lawyer
Many lawyers in the capital, Islamabad, and the nearby garrison town of
Rawalpindi said they did not go to the courts because they were warned they
would be arrested and possibly beaten.
Despite the warnings, more than 100
lawyers demonstrated outside Islamabad’s main court complex today. The lawyers,
clad in black suits and ties, shouted, “Musharraf, dog!” and “A Baton and a
bullet will not do!” Haroon Rashid, president of the Islamabad Bar Association,
instructed lawyers not to attack the watching police because he did not want to
give the police a pretext for arrests, he said.
This is the second time this year that the country’s lawyers have
emerged to fight the government. They led weeks of protests in the spring when
General Musharraf fired the Supreme Court chief justice.
What's so interesting about this is how Pakistan's lawyers are putting their personal safety on the line to fight for the freedoms of others.
Makes you wonder whether Habush, Habush and Rottier, David Gruber and the various midnight TV advertisers would do the same.